Civil servant credit card spending over £500 set for publication

October 27, 2011 5:26 PM

This morning the Government began publishing all spending over £500 on Government Procurement Cards (GPCs). Earlier this year we launched a campaign against wasteful spending on GPCs and other corporate credit cards, uncovering millions of pounds that was previously insufficiently monitored.

GPCs are credit cards used widely throughout the public sector. For many items they are often the most efficient way to purchase goods and save significant sums in administering expense claims. Previously, civil servants had to pay for items themselves upfront and wait for claims to be signed off. With corporate credit card schemes, there is not the same concern. However the ease of making purchases has resulted in many dubious claims slipping through the net. Of course we are fully supportive of a scheme that if used correctly would save taxpayers’ money, however until now, spending by civil servants on credit cards has gone largely unchecked.

It is great news that the Government has been paying close attention to revelations such as those covering spending in Whitehall Departments, Local Authorities, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, NICE, Ordnance Survey and the Health and Safety Executive. In addition to stricter oversight policies, publishing details of transactions online (in an easy to use format) will hopefully make civil servants think twice before booking into 4 or 5 star hotels, or making dinner reservations at Michelin starred restaurants.

But why only publish spending over £500? While it is consistent with other government spending releases, it is an arbitrary figure that would still exclude a huge number of transactions. Many of the claims made on GPCs are small in value, and indeed so too are many of the egregious claims, all of which would be exempt from publication. Strangely the Government’s own press release notes a couple of transactions to support their policy. Unfortunately one of the items, £258 spent at Puppets by Post which sells “finger puppets, hand puppets and glove puppets”, would clearly go unpublished under these new guidelines.

In our experience of requesting information on GPC/credit card spending, providing information for transactions above a certain threshold is often more expensive and demanding because of the transactions needing to be removed. Instead, the Government should consider revising its policy to cover the publication of entire GPC and credit card statements (personal details redacted, of course). Publishing entire credit card statements must surely be easy than filtering out claims under £500.This morning the Government began publishing all spending over £500 on Government Procurement Cards (GPCs). Earlier this year we launched a campaign against wasteful spending on GPCs and other corporate credit cards, uncovering millions of pounds that was previously insufficiently monitored.

GPCs are credit cards used widely throughout the public sector. For many items they are often the most efficient way to purchase goods and save significant sums in administering expense claims. Previously, civil servants had to pay for items themselves upfront and wait for claims to be signed off. With corporate credit card schemes, there is not the same concern. However the ease of making purchases has resulted in many dubious claims slipping through the net. Of course we are fully supportive of a scheme that if used correctly would save taxpayers’ money, however until now, spending by civil servants on credit cards has gone largely unchecked.

It is great news that the Government has been paying close attention to revelations such as those covering spending in Whitehall Departments, Local Authorities, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, NICE, Ordnance Survey and the Health and Safety Executive. In addition to stricter oversight policies, publishing details of transactions online (in an easy to use format) will hopefully make civil servants think twice before booking into 4 or 5 star hotels, or making dinner reservations at Michelin starred restaurants.

But why only publish spending over £500? While it is consistent with other government spending releases, it is an arbitrary figure that would still exclude a huge number of transactions. Many of the claims made on GPCs are small in value, and indeed so too are many of the egregious claims, all of which would be exempt from publication. Strangely the Government’s own press release notes a couple of transactions to support their policy. Unfortunately one of the items, £258 spent at Puppets by Post which sells “finger puppets, hand puppets and glove puppets”, would clearly go unpublished under these new guidelines.

In our experience of requesting information on GPC/credit card spending, providing information for transactions above a certain threshold is often more expensive and demanding because of the transactions needing to be removed. Instead, the Government should consider revising its policy to cover the publication of entire GPC and credit card statements (personal details redacted, of course). Publishing entire credit card statements must surely be easy than filtering out claims under £500.

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