GPC spending continues to rise

August 13, 2012 3:12 PM

It seems that spending on Government Procurement Cards last year increased yet again, rising to £1.15 billion, an increase of £150 million since the Government pledged to cut spending on them in 2010.

Freedom of Information requests by The People found that in the financial year 2011-12 Government credit cards were used for numerous extravagances including luxury stays in five star hotels, iPads, trips to the London eye, expensive restaurants and state of the art office furniture.

Last year alone, the Department of Health spent £2,285 staying at the luxury Sherlock Homes Hotel in London while officials from the Home Office spent £1,694 enjoying trips on the London Eye. Staff at the transport quango, the Office of Rail Regulation, spent £2,433 on four Apple iPads and officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were also found to have spent £777 on a ‘working lunch” at London’s Cinnamon Club Indian restaurant as well as £1,129 on seven nights at the trendy five star Tribe Hotel in Nairobi.

The use of Government Procurement Cards varies significantly between departments. The Ministry of Defence accounts for three quarters of total expenditure on GPCs but its controls are weaker than in any other department, checking as little as 5 per cent of transactions. The National Audit Office found that one third of GPC transactions made at the DWP did not have receipts.

While it is welcome news that the Cabinet Office has recently developed a central policy for GPCs, it is still worrying that the strengths of controls in place vary significantly between departments, with some departments limiting checks to only a tiny fraction of total transactions. While using the cards might save money in the administration of expenses, the benefits are outweighed by ridiculous levels of wasteful transactions.

We have been leading the way in exposing wasteful spending on GPCs across the entire public sector. Earlier this year we revealed that the Office of Fair Trading spent over £80 on a visit to Hooters, the British Council spent thousands of pounds at London attractions and the Sustainable Development Commission spent thousands of pounds on luxury four-star hotels. Last year we also exposed over £25 million of spending by Whitehall departments where civil servants spent taxpayers' money on five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants and first class flights.

All public bodies must ensure there are stricter controls on spending, banning the use of cards for certain items and checking transactions more widely to reduce waste.It seems that spending on Government Procurement Cards last year increased yet again, rising to £1.15 billion, an increase of £150 million since the Government pledged to cut spending on them in 2010.

Freedom of Information requests by The People found that in the financial year 2011-12 Government credit cards were used for numerous extravagances including luxury stays in five star hotels, iPads, trips to the London eye, expensive restaurants and state of the art office furniture.

Last year alone, the Department of Health spent £2,285 staying at the luxury Sherlock Homes Hotel in London while officials from the Home Office spent £1,694 enjoying trips on the London Eye. Staff at the transport quango, the Office of Rail Regulation, spent £2,433 on four Apple iPads and officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were also found to have spent £777 on a ‘working lunch” at London’s Cinnamon Club Indian restaurant as well as £1,129 on seven nights at the trendy five star Tribe Hotel in Nairobi.

The use of Government Procurement Cards varies significantly between departments. The Ministry of Defence accounts for three quarters of total expenditure on GPCs but its controls are weaker than in any other department, checking as little as 5 per cent of transactions. The National Audit Office found that one third of GPC transactions made at the DWP did not have receipts.

While it is welcome news that the Cabinet Office has recently developed a central policy for GPCs, it is still worrying that the strengths of controls in place vary significantly between departments, with some departments limiting checks to only a tiny fraction of total transactions. While using the cards might save money in the administration of expenses, the benefits are outweighed by ridiculous levels of wasteful transactions.

We have been leading the way in exposing wasteful spending on GPCs across the entire public sector. Earlier this year we revealed that the Office of Fair Trading spent over £80 on a visit to Hooters, the British Council spent thousands of pounds at London attractions and the Sustainable Development Commission spent thousands of pounds on luxury four-star hotels. Last year we also exposed over £25 million of spending by Whitehall departments where civil servants spent taxpayers' money on five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants and first class flights.

All public bodies must ensure there are stricter controls on spending, banning the use of cards for certain items and checking transactions more widely to reduce waste.

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