The Office for National Statistics must monitor its own numbers too

June 20, 2012 1:56 PM

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has repeatedly called for greater spending transparency on spending on Government Procurement Cards (GPCs). We have already exposed the credit card spending of Whitehall departments and various quangos such as the OFT, the British Council and the Child Support Agency. But now, data for two more quangos has come to light. The Sun on Sunday reported on the credit card spending since 2009 by The Office for National Statistics and the UK Statistics Authority following the release of data requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The figures reveal significant spending on luxury hotels and catering. For instance, £418.65 was spent at the five star Rixos Grand Hotel in Ankara. In the much larger Office of National Statistics we can see the same trends - such as the Georgetown suites in Washington which cost £460.41, the 4 star Marriott Hotel in Southampton which cost £1,496 and the numerous visits to the four star Hellaby Hall which cost £1,080. It's a shame that these number crunchers couldn't keep a track on their own ballooning bills.

Procurement cards can be an efficient way to make purchases, with claims that an average of £5 is saved per transaction, but current checks are clearly insufficient. And it’s not just the TaxPayers' Alliance calling for closer scrutiny of these cards; the Public Accounts Committee have also expressed concerns that much of the spending goes unchecked in their repot on GPCs. Margaret Hodge MP, the Chair of the committee said that controls “are not strict enough to deter and prevent inappropriate use.”

Her committee also heard evidence from civil servants who revealed some worrying facts. Civil Servants in the MOD, the biggest users of the cards, revealed that only 5 per cent of transactions are checked and civil servants in the DWP revealed that they don’t even have receipts for a third of their transactions.

It has now been 14 years since an analysis has been carried out into the benefits of using the card. In that time, the number of cards in circulation has increased massively. Although many costs are genuine business expenses, the addiction to high-end purchases and a habit for fancy hotels has to stop. Our research has revealed that savings can be made across many public sector organisations and the Government has to get a grip on unmonitored spending.The TaxPayers’ Alliance has repeatedly called for greater spending transparency on spending on Government Procurement Cards (GPCs). We have already exposed the credit card spending of Whitehall departments and various quangos such as the OFT, the British Council and the Child Support Agency. But now, data for two more quangos has come to light. The Sun on Sunday reported on the credit card spending since 2009 by The Office for National Statistics and the UK Statistics Authority following the release of data requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

The figures reveal significant spending on luxury hotels and catering. For instance, £418.65 was spent at the five star Rixos Grand Hotel in Ankara. In the much larger Office of National Statistics we can see the same trends - such as the Georgetown suites in Washington which cost £460.41, the 4 star Marriott Hotel in Southampton which cost £1,496 and the numerous visits to the four star Hellaby Hall which cost £1,080. It's a shame that these number crunchers couldn't keep a track on their own ballooning bills.

Procurement cards can be an efficient way to make purchases, with claims that an average of £5 is saved per transaction, but current checks are clearly insufficient. And it’s not just the TaxPayers' Alliance calling for closer scrutiny of these cards; the Public Accounts Committee have also expressed concerns that much of the spending goes unchecked in their repot on GPCs. Margaret Hodge MP, the Chair of the committee said that controls “are not strict enough to deter and prevent inappropriate use.”

Her committee also heard evidence from civil servants who revealed some worrying facts. Civil Servants in the MOD, the biggest users of the cards, revealed that only 5 per cent of transactions are checked and civil servants in the DWP revealed that they don’t even have receipts for a third of their transactions.

It has now been 14 years since an analysis has been carried out into the benefits of using the card. In that time, the number of cards in circulation has increased massively. Although many costs are genuine business expenses, the addiction to high-end purchases and a habit for fancy hotels has to stop. Our research has revealed that savings can be made across many public sector organisations and the Government has to get a grip on unmonitored spending.

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