Spending on government-issued “bank cards” has risen 70% since 2010, when the Conservatives first warned they have been producing “hideous waste”, in response to a Labour evaluation of civil service spending.
Civil servants at 14 of the 15 major authorities departments spent almost £150m on authorities procurement playing cards (GPCs) in 2021, the figures present, a steep rise since 2010-11, when David Cameron warned concerning the lax guidelines and oversight governing their use.
Eye-catching quantities billed to the taxpayer-funded playing cards included Liz Truss and her high officers spending almost £1,500 on lunch and dinner at two of Jakarta’s most unique eating places, and Rishi Sunak’s Treasury division spending greater than £3,000 on pictures to hold on the partitions when he was chancellor and £4,500 on lodge rooms in Venice.
The figures emerged from a months-long investigation by Labour, which submitted greater than 300 freedom of data requests and parliamentary inquiries to uncover the data, and is because of launch a web site devoted to monitoring GPC spending on Monday. The knowledge uncovered exhibits a sample of utilizing the playing cards for lavish leisure, costly presents for overseas dignitaries and luxurious lodge stays.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy chief, stated: “At present’s surprising revelations carry the lid on a scandalous catalogue of waste, with taxpayers’ cash frittered away throughout each a part of authorities, whereas in the remainder of the nation, households are sick with fear about whether or not their pay cheque will cowl their subsequent weekly store or the following tranche of payments.”
Rayner stated Labour would arrange a brand new regulator known as the Workplace of Worth for Cash to assist monitor civil service spending extra rigorously.
A Conservative supply identified that Labour introduced within the playing cards in 1997 and that the Tories had reduce the variety of playing cards in use throughout the civil service, if not the general ranges of spending. They dismissed the concept of a brand new regulator as “yet one more quango”.
The figures present that spending on GPCs by officers at 14 of the principle 15 central authorities departments has risen from £85m in 2010-11 to £146m in 2021. The Ministry of Defence is without doubt one of the heaviest customers of the playing cards, however was excluded from the evaluation as a result of its information contained errors and obvious double counting.
One of many departments that depends on its playing cards most closely is the Overseas Workplace, partly as a result of diplomats usually use them to pay for throwing events and entertaining overseas dignitaries.
A Overseas Workplace supply stated: “No nation, and truly no authorities of no matter occasion, has stated or thinks that critical diplomacy is free. Once we return the usually beneficiant hospitality obtained from others, or provide it to them, it’s executed to reinforce and promote British pursuits.”
However the data additionally exhibits that officers often spend lavishly even when no overseas dignitaries are in attendance.
The spending by Truss in Indonesia passed off throughout a go to to Jakarta on Remembrance Day 2021, for instance, however parliamentary solutions to questions submitted by Labour reveal that she didn’t have time to go to the Jakarta conflict cemetery, the place 690 Britons are buried.
David Rutley, the Overseas Workplace minister, stated: “Members at each [meals] included the previous overseas secretary and delegation, our ambassador to Indonesia and different British embassy officers.”
Earlier that yr, Truss used a VIP suite at Heathrow whereas getting back from Mexico on her first journey as overseas secretary, permitting her to bypass the traditional check-in, safety and passport procedures. The suite additionally gives entry to meals designed by a Michelin-starred chef, using a private shopper and a chauffered automotive between the aircraft and the airport.
The Overseas Workplace later settled the £3,240 invoice utilizing a authorities card. Rutley stated in a parliamentary answer: “VIP companies are booked to offer swift and safe airport arrival and departure preparations. We’re dedicated to utilizing public cash responsibly and obtain a lowered charge for these companies.”
In September 2021, the Mirror recently revealed, Boris Johnson additionally used a GPC to pay for a £4,445 dinner in New York for himself and 24 of his workers.
The Treasury has additionally spent closely at occasions. In March 2021, for instance, when the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, was chancellor, the division spent £3,393 shopping for 13 pictures from the Tate to hold in its Whitehall constructing, regardless of already accessing the federal government artwork assortment.
Sunak was additionally highlighted for staying within the five-star Lodge Danieli in Venice when attending the G20 assembly of finance ministers in July 2021 at a value of greater than £4,500 for him and his aides.
The knowledge uncovered by Labour additionally exhibits systemic issues which aren’t related to any specific division or minister.
There are a number of events the place objects had been accounted for wrongly, corresponding to when greater than £1,000 value of aircraft tickets within the Maldives was logged as “pc gear and companies”.
And there are examples of departments apparently scrambling to max out the playing cards as the tip of the monetary yr approaches. In March 2021, for instance, Sunak’s Treasury spent greater than £25,000 on IT and workplace gear – greater than double every other month of the yr. That included spending greater than £5,000 on a paper shredder and almost £11,000 on video and photograph gear.