We all got outraged at the troughing MP’s and the various lists of paraphernalia that they
stole got with the expenses scheme, if ever we needed proof that we were being ripped off by a bunch of thieving liars well that was it. Though the malaise goes a lot further and deeper than was originally thought. Seems our MP’s are actually rank amateurs when it comes to the top civil servants.
Ministers are locked in an extraordinary power battle with Britain’s most senior civil servant over the scandal of taxpayer-funded credit cards.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell is being blamed by key members of the Government for blocking moves to reveal the true extent of spending on the cards, which are given to officials to pay for their ‘expenses’.
Ministers fear a cloak of secrecy is being used to conceal widespread abuse of the £1 billion of public money spent on the cards every year. Some officials have already been caught using them for personal items such as hamburgers or supermarket shopping trips – but the real number of culprits is suspected to be far higher.
About 140,000 Government Procurement Cards (GPC) are in circulation, and any bills lower than £1,000 a month are not routinely audited.
Now, amid growing public anger over the revelations, Whitehall finance mandarins have issued secret advice warning Ministers against publishing information that exposes exactly how much has been spent using the cards since their introduction in 1997.
The row coincides with the release today of bank statements revealing how officials at the Commons racked up a £1.5 million bill on taxpayer-funded credit cards over the past three years.
The list of nearly 4,000 purchases, released under Freedom of Information rules, includes £3,700 on The Claridges hotel in New Delhi and almost £200 on French lessons.
Last night, one Minister who has lobbied behind the scenes for full disclosure said: ‘We have been banging our heads against a brick wall trying to get all this information out there.
‘We are convinced there has been an abuse of this perk on the scale of the MPs’ expenses scandal, but the Cabinet Office has resisted at every turn. And it has been made clear to us that Sir Gus is not on our side.’
And a Whitehall insider said: ‘For too long officials have treated this perk like a Gold Card on the taxpayer.’
In recent months The Mail on Sunday has revealed a series of eye-catching and exotic purchases made by civil servants and local government officials on taxpayer-funded cards, including £25 million spent last year on first-class flights, exclusive restaurants and shopping sprees.
And last week this newspaper disclosed how officials working for a Government policing quango had used the cards to buy items including exotic lingerie and beehives, racking up bills of more than £3 million a year.
It really beggars belief at times the profligacy and corruption of taxpayers cash at the top of the public services, if anyone tried that in my company their feet wouldn’t even touch the floor as they were kicked out and means set in motion to recoup the money through either civil or criminal courts.
But in the weird world of the public services such basic safeguards don’t seem to have a place in the culture of waste and mismanagement at the top of the tree, though I suspect the junior ranks might just struggle to get a replacement paperclip from the stationary store such would be the paperwork involved.
Yet they don’t get it, it’s not their money it’s ours they are wasting on this stuff, I know they often claim they are buying from UK suppliers but still all that means is that the taxpayer is subsidising these companies too. What we can be sure of is that the senior mandarins will continue to fight like trapped rats to prevent even a hint of their largesse ever coming to the attention of the public or even MP’s if they can help it. It’s one of the reasons they have to go, or be strung from the lampposts as and when we get around to them after hanging the MP’s and lawyers etc.
It’s a long list and it just keeps getting longer and possibly always will at least until they show a lot more respect to the long suffering taxpayer and really start giving value for money.
The government of this country should be the absolute minimum necessary to do the job required of it, both with politicians and civil servants, there should be no compulsory spending, intervention, and regulation, except those whose only function is to protect individuals from aggression. The only government functions should be courts, military, police and transport infrastructure, in other words no frills, no massively bloated bureaucracy, no quangocracies, just the sheer bloody minimum to do a quality if limited job.
Everything else should be devolved down to local level and individual choice because anything else is just daylight robbery by politicians and civil servants for politicians and civil servants.