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Oil and Gas Authority reveals fraudsters stole £25,000

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has revealed it was hit by fraudsters last year resulting in the loss of £25,000 in funds.

In its accounts for 2018, the North Sea industry regulator said it was the victim of “bank mandate fraud” during the financial year.

According to Police Scotland, this is where scammers purport to be an organisation where regular payments are already made in order to access a bank account.

The OGA said it delivered mandatory information security training in 2018 and issues regular alerts and updates for staff.

A spokeswoman for the regulator said: “The OGA was subject to a mandate fraud of £25K which resulted from internal processes not being followed and additional training has since been completed.”

In its online guidance on mandate fraud, Police Scotland said public sector organisations are “particularly at risk” due to the high volume of transactions they typically carry out.

More widely, the OGA’s accounts outlined a year whereby the regulator helped the industry save £322million which would not have otherwise been made without its intervention.

Its activities also resulted in £417m in actual and forecast savings for decommissioning sector.

Meanwhile the regulator pointed out that it has helped boost projected North Sea production from 2016 to 2050 by 3.9billion barrels compared to an earlier forecast in 2015.

Andy Samuel, chief executive of the Oil and Gas Authority

The OGA raised £22.9million through the yearly industry levy during 2018, of which £1m was underspent and will be returned to North Sea licence holders.

The OGA is not-for-profit so anything surplus is refunded and the profit position is therefore neutral.

CEO Andy Samuel said he was “proud” of the team for its achievements over the year.

He added: “2018-19 has been another significant year for the OGA. We have maintained our firm focus on maximising economic recovery of oil and gas.

“Our central production projection out to 2050 is now 3.9billion barrels higher than it was in 2015.

“A mixture of field life extensions, infield reserve additions, enhanced oil recovery and new projects and discoveries, have helped add this additional 45% in future production.

“I am so proud to lead such a great team, which has again achieved so much.”

Pay packages for the top team

Chief executive Andy Samuel’s total pay package doubled that of the Prime Minister, maintaining his position as one of the country’s highest paid civil servants.

The OGA spent a total of £14million on staff costs in 2018, including £1.2million on consultancy and temporary workers.

Mr Samuel’s take home pay, including salary and bonuses, totalled £330,000 – £335,000.

By comparison, former Prime Minister Theresa May’s total pay was £155,600 in the 12 months to April 1, 2018, according to the latest figures published in March.

The OGA said Mr Samuel’s remuneration was 4.7 times the median pay package of the workforce which was £70,079.

Meanwhile new chairman Tim Eggar took home £4,500 for his first three weeks of work.

He joined on March 11, 2019, with the document showing his total pro-rata pay for the financial period which ended on March 31.

Chief financial officer Nic Granger’s take home pay, including salary, pension and bonuses, totalled £185,000 – £190,000.

As of March, the regulator employed 156 people and nine interim contractors.

Industry figures including Sir Ian Wood have previously defended the pay of the OGA’s top team, saying the sums need to be competitive in order to attract the best talent to the regulator.

2018-19 is the OGA’s second full year operating as a government company.

Aside from the industry levy which pays for a large part of its operations, the OGA received a £4.7m grant from the Treasury to promote exploration activity in the North Sea and a £1.7m grant from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

It also received £350,000 from Innovate UK for a project to support the energy transition across the UK.

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