Ordnance Survey joins the ranks of quangos living it up on taxpayers' credit cards

September 26, 2011 1:42 PM

Ordnance Survey bureaucrats spent £8.7 million on government credit cards, research by Charlie Elphicke MP has revealed in The Sunday Times (£). 

The MP for Dover obtained credit card statements from the government cartographers using parliamentary questions and they reveal a corporate life in the fast lane with trips to five-star hotels around the world and ‘subsistence’ at upmarket restaurants Caviar House and Loch Fyne.

Officials also spent £113 during a trip to chocolatier Hotel Chocolat and over £300 at Majestic Wines. They spent £3,037 staying at the five-star Taj Coromandel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World club, where rooms include Jacuzzis, fresh flowers, executive desks with personalised stationary and a ‘24hr invisible butler’. Previous guests at the hotel include Presidents of the European Commission, Presidents Carter and Clinton of the United States and Queen Elizabeth II. Mr Elphicke condemned the spending:

Spending taxpayers’ money on caviar, oysters, swanky hotels and designer sunglasses is frankly disgraceful and, to top it all, they’ve then had the nerve to reward these bad practices by buying themselves gifts like golfing equipment, Disney toys and fine chocolates

Ordnance Survey responded to the criticism by praising the cards’ efficiency for making payments for low-value items:

This is particularly beneficial for small and medium enterprises. The use of government procurement cards has resulted in reduced administration costs and quicker payments to suppliers.

All items… are subject to a review and approval by management and the finance department.

The efficiency and speed with which taxpayers’ cash is channelled into “low-value items” is not the issue and it speaks volumes that Ordnance Survey appear to think it is.  The issue, especially at a time when ordinary taxpayers are feeling the pinch as taxes rise and the economy is faltering, is whether spending taxpayers’ hard-earned money on extravagant luxuries is what government agencies should be doing. In case there’s any doubt: no they shouldn’t. The Ordnance Survey makes a significant surplus using taxpayers’ assets but that doesn’t excuse waste and profligacy. As long as it is in the public sector, it should be doing all it can to keep costs down and maximise returns to ease the burden on hard-pressed taxpayers.

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