It’s good to talk Pt II

Well, what a chuckle I had when I read the following on, especially as I had just blogged about Skype, word in your shell-like Scottish Parliament bods…

Thief runs up £46,000 bill on parliamentary mobile phone
The Times, November 25, 2006

Just when politicians thought that public anger was waning over the multimillion-pound overspend at the Scottish Parliament, the case of the stolen mobile phone surfaced.
The phone went missing in 2004 when the Parliament moved from its temporary headquarters in Edinburgh to its £431 million home at Holyrood. But no one bothered to report the disappearance, and as a result the thief managed to run up £46,200 worth of calls before a stop was eventually put on the phone. Add VAT, and the bill is far higher.

Taxpayers will be left to foot what is left of the bill, £27,200, after Vodaphone said that it was prepared to waive about half of the cost.

Parliament officials did not realise that the phone was missing it seems until Vodaphone alerted them to the rapidly mounting bill.

The phone was apparently one of several used by Parliament officials and normally kept in an office desk at the Parliament’s former home.

The revelation came in a report published yesterday by the Parliament’s financial watchdog, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body (SPCB). The report states: “This includes an SPCB mobile phone which was stolen in 2004 at the time of the move from the interim accommodation at George IV Bridge to the Parliament’s new facilities and which was sub- sequently used to fraudulently accumulate call charges of £43,200 plus Vat.”

The phone is the latest costly theft of Parliament property to come to light. Since the move, four computer monitors, a digital camera and a BlackBerry, costing nearly £5,000 in total, have been stolen.

A spokesman for the Parliament said last night that the phone was a pooled resource and was used infrequently. “The excessive use did not occur until the first quarter of 2006 and was due to the fraudulent user repeatedly calling premium rate competition lines, which cost at least £1 a time,” he said.

“This was an isolated incident. However, the Parliament, along with its service provider, has now strengthened guidance and procedures for mobile phone ownership and use to ensure this cannot happen again.”

He said that Vodaphone was testing an alert system that would notify officials if bills for any of the Parliament mobiles appear suspect. “Vodafone has agreed, as a goodwill gesture, to write off 50 per cent of the total, reducing the actual loss to the Parliament to £21,600.”

He said that officials would check quarterly bills against the phones’ users, clarify phone policy and ask users to identify and pay for non-business calls.

The Parliament has also asked office heads to confirm that all phones in their charge are still required.

Margo Macdonald, an independent MSP and arch-critic of the Holyrood building, said: “A child with a mobile phone who had it nicked would know to notify the supplier immediately. It’s not just the cost, it’s the sheer incompetence. Am I surprised? No.”

Lothian and Borders Police said that they were looking into the theft.

The Parliament building has been beset by problems since its inception. The original architect died a year into the project as did Donald Dewar, the First Minister who was the main driving force for a building at Holyrood.

The building cost ten times the original estimate, although a public inquiry found that no one person was to blame for the overspending.

Keeping in touch

*The first mobile battery lasted only 20 minutes before it conked out

*The first mobile phone cost £2,000 and was the size of a briefcase

*The comedian Ernie Wise made the first call on a UK network on January 1, 1985

*The first text message was sent in 1993

*140 million texts were sent on July 1, 2006, when England was knocked out of the World Cup

*1,700 mobile phones are thrown away every hour

*A phone is stolen in Britain every 12 seconds

*90 million unused phones are lurking in drawers and cupboards — together they would weigh 11,250 tonnes

*Days after Callie Rogers, 16, won £2 million on the lottery, her boyfriend, Gary Fidler, was caught texting another girl, kissing goodbye to a fortune

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