Senior officers at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) had inappropriately claimed items on company credit cards and failed to declare gifts and hospitality, a new council document claims.

The internal audit report found that at least 51 procurement card transactions were not supported by an invoice, and the cards have been used for non-business purposes, including flights and accommodation to a charity Burns Night event in Scotland.

Auditors also found that some gifts hadn’t been recorded, including three trips abroad to America, Australia and Sweden.

They said concerns had been raised that two of GFRS’ most senior fire officers, ex-chief fire officer Stewart Edgar and assistant chief fire officer John Beard, had taken their families on two separate trips abroad “at the public’s expense” in 2017, but added that the trips were paid for by sponsors.

The report follows the resignation of Mr Edgar last year after an internal county council investigation found he undersold a service-owned Land Rover thousands of pounds below the market value, later buying it for himself.

The internal audit was commissioned after a number of whistleblower complaints challenged GFRS’ polices and procedures.

Auditors found that Mr Edgar, the assistant chief fire officer and the fleet manager had failed to record attendance at the St Andrew’s Charity Ball in 2015 and in subsequent years.

They added they were unable to find any evidence that Mr Edgar had sought approval from Gloucestershire County Council’s chief executive Peter Bungard to accept the hospitality offered.

Auditors said failure to record these events could mount allegations of bribery.

The council report said: “Omissions of this nature could result in allegations suggesting perceived inappropriate staff behaviour, bribery and corruption, lack of transparency in respect of business decision making and not obtaining value for money.”

Gloucestershire County Council, which runs the fire department, said: “It’s clear that there were areas where governance arrangements weren’t followed and we will continue all steps to address matters identified, making sure previous poor or inappropriate practices cannot be repeated.”

The report added two members of the fleet team had been on a business trip to Sweden funded by Scania – the makers of products in GFRS – to showcase their latest fire and rescue products in 2018.

Although the trip was not recorded on the register, but was approved by Mr Edgar, it should have been logged “for openness and transparency”.

Peter Bungard, chief executive of the county council said: “Our fire and rescue service deliver strong outcomes in communities across the county.

"It is also important that residents can be confident that processes and conduct within the service are robust and appropriate.

“As a result of the reporting systems we have in place, concerns such as those highlighted in these reports can be raised and addressed.

"It is clear that there were areas where governance arrangements were not followed and we will continue to take all necessary steps to address the matters identified, making sure previous poor or inappropriate practices cannot be repeated.

“There is complete confidence in the new chief fire officer, supported by colleagues from across the council, to deliver the required improvements, bringing things in line with the strong processes in place across the rest of the organisation.

“If agreed by cabinet, ongoing challenge by the proposed cross-party cabinet panel would ensure regular scrutiny of progress against these recommendations.”