Bungling county council staff overpaid employees by almost £1million and may have squandered thousands more paying the care bills of dead former residents.

These and many more damning revelations came to light in an internal report for the Audit Commission into the council’s financial affairs between 2008 and 2009.

Other “areas of concern” included the “attempted or actual theft” of some £420,000, an overpayment of around £188,000 to a voluntary organisation, and numerous “excessive” expenses claims by staff.

The report bemoaned a “significant increase in attempted frauds using counterfeit HCC [county council] cheques” – a total of 32 cases running to some £420,000. All attempts have been reported to the Police.

The report also claimed that the volume of salary overpayments remains “a concern,” with some £480,000 overpaid to 570 current employees and £452,000 to around 600 staff who had left. More than £100,000 of this money remains missing.

Also under investigation by the Tory controlled authority, which collects around 77 per cent of council tax revenues, is the possibility that residential care grants continue to be paid to 51 former residents confirmed as being dead by the government.

Partly as a result of these discoveries the Audit Commission has branded the council’s financial reporting capabilities as “inadequate.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Allan Witherick said the council’s leadership, which is still struggling to recover some £28million lost in the Icelandic collapse, has lost nay claim to economic competence.

He said: “During the election the Tories crowed about how wonderful they were at running the County Council, while we insisted that this was not the case.

"Now we have the independent Audit Commission agreeing with us that standards have fallen between 2007 and 2008.'

“Latest estimates show that up to half the council taxpayers' money invested in Iceland may be lost. Elsewhere we find that the council is having to investigate whether it was still paying for care of people who had passed away and why it overpaid staff over £1million last year.”

Council spokesman Andrew Dawson said: “We are taking this issue seriously and are taking all the necessary steps to correct the matters identified as soon as possible.

"We expect the majority of any overpayments to be recovered. “To put the figures into context, Hertfordshire County Council's 2008/09 salary bill was £463million. In that year alone, 10,368 people left the organisation. The £930,000 overpayment represents 0.2 per cent of the annual wage bill.”