Operation Tempura UK Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) disclosure
I note you seek access to the following information:
It was revealed that MPS had written off £19,492.66 in expenses incurred by officers involved in Operation Tempura in the Cayman Islands because the officers concerned had failed to keep proper records of their expenditure.
I am requesting further information about this as follows –
1. A breakdown of the written off expenses by basic categories such as travel, phone calls, credit card charges, etc.
2. A breakdown of those expenses by the months in which they were incurred.
3. Whether any kind of recovery action or disciplinary action was ever taken to recoup the outstanding expenses from the officers concerned or whether any explanation (electronic, paper or notes from telephone conversations and meetings) has ever been given by anyone involved in Operation Tempura as to why no receipts had been retained for these expenses – suitably redacted copies (see below) are acceptable.
4. Copies of any correspondence (electronic, paper or notes from telephone conversations and meetings) that relates to the attempts by MPS to obtain the receipts for these expenses – suitably redacted copies (see below) are acceptable.
5. Any correspondence (electronic, paper or notes from telephone conversations and meetings) that might explain why the RCIPS was asked to reimburse these expenses when it appears from the previous FOIA release that they were clearly unrecoverable due to lack of proper records – suitably redacted copies (see below) are acceptable.
I am not requesting any details of the officers concerned, or of any other officers involved, or any details specific to the investigation or any more specific details about the expenses – just general figures and dates as might be provided during an internal audit into the loss.
I have today decided to disclose the located information to you in full.
Your interpretation of our response to your previous questions that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had written off £19,492.66 in expenses relating to Operation Tempura as a result of a failure to keep proper records of their expenditure is incorrect.
In information previously provided to you is an email (Email Chain 1, first email) we state “we agreed to compromise on the sums outstanding” and we “do not consider there is any prospect of being able to recover relevant receipts of documentation that would support these claims but the MPS remains of the view that these expenses were all properly incurred in support of Operation Tempura”. The decision not to supply supporting documentation had two causes. These causes are summarised below.
Firstly, some costs were incurred using covert mobile phones and the MPS made the decision not to provide copies of phone bills for these items to protect the integrity of covert assets. The MPS entered into Operation Tempura as a covert operation to support the local police with an agreement that all MPS costs would be recoverable in full. The initial deployment of MPS officers included several officers attached to covert units. It is organisational practice, in certain covert areas, to operate completely independently of normal day-to-day MPS operations. Some Tempura officers were drawn from covert teams and had been issued with mobile phones not registered to the MPS, albeit entirely within the auspices of MPS operational and financial controls.
Once the Cayman Islands requested copies of bills as supporting evidence for MPS invoices it was clear that certain bills presented a problem as their inclusion as supporting information would potentially compromise MPS covert assets. To avoid any risk to the covert nature of this operation a decision was reached not to obtain the paperwork supporting these expenses from the covert finance unit and to write off these sums. This recognises the significant operational risk of exposure of these officers and associated covert assets.
Secondly, when Operation Tempura officers first arrived in the Cayman Islands they established a system for accounting for local expenditure on office supplies and expenses. They established a fund of money drawn in cash. These cash withdraws were fully reconciled by the officers involved to the standards required by the MPS for reconciliations. The officers concerned purchased equipment and covered local expenses from this fund, but were not always able to obtain receipts for this expenditure although a local log of expenditure was kept. This meant that the MPS was unable to supply all the required receipts when the Cayman Islands retrospectively required them.
See attached table that summarises the items for which supporting paperwork was not submitted
Of the total £33,149 in respect of which no supporting paperwork was provided, the Caymans paid £5,675 (prior to requiring detailed supporting documentation for subsequent invoices). The remaining balance outstanding was £27,474. As you are aware from our previous correspondence and agreement was reached between the MPS and the Cayman Islands in May 2010 that a proportion of the outstanding debt would be set aside. An offer of a reduction of £19,492.66 was made by the MPS to secure the payment of the remaining outstanding sums. The sum to settle the
outstanding invoices was agreed by telephone in a conversation between the MPS and the Cayman Islands. This conversation is referred to in the first email in Email chain 1 in our previous response to you. This was accepted and payment was received.
The settlement reached recognised the costs of continued delays to the receipt of the payment, which the MPS considered it, had already provided the information that it was prepared to and such information as was readily available as outlined above. The settlement also recognised the costs and likely success of any of the reasonable alternatives to recover of the full sum outstanding.
In relation to your questions one and two, MPS initial invoices were paid in full with only high level summary supporting information provided. Delays in payment of later invoices were due to increased audit requirements in respect of the Cayman finances resulting in a request for detailed supporting documentation. It was only at this stage that the MPS took the view that such detailed information would or could not be provided in all cases despite the expenses being legitimate and being incurred in the investigation of Operation Tempura. The write off sum was reached as part of a negotiation in a telephone conversation for which we have no written records.
In relation to questions three, four and five, no recovery or disciplinary action was required as there was no failure by any officer to provide information. All costs initially invoiced to the Cayman Islands were incurred in the investigation of Operation Tempura.
Directorate of Resources