An ICO spokesperson said:
"An independent internal investigation, commissioned by the ICO in February, confirmed that a single payment of £6248.40 was made on an ICO corporate charge card in December 2020 for identical £24.60 gifts for 254 members of ICO staff.
“While the spending was intended to acknowledge the hard work of these staff across a challenging year, the investigation confirmed it was not in line with our staff recognition or spending policies to purchase gifts for staff using public funds.
“The investigation also confirmed that this was the only transaction made outside ICO policy and the only example of gifts having been purchased for staff.
“The investigation found that, for this specific transaction, our strict financial controls were not overseen effectively, enabling the transaction to be made despite it not being permitted by ICO policy.
“We want to apologise for this incident. We have taken action in response to the investigation’s findings, implementing all recommendations in full, so that this should not happen again.
“We have also appointed a new Director of Finance to strengthen the oversight of our financial controls and staff training.
“We will be including a review of our implementation of the recommendations from this investigation in our future internal audit programme.
“Where the investigation highlighted behaviour that fell below the standards the ICO expects, we have also taken the appropriate steps."