A poor use of resources

The cry of the bureaucracy down the ages.

In response, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, announced last month that civil servants would be forced to publish all spending.

However, it emerged yesterday that the final publication scheme being devised will mean that many items of spending will remain secret.

Coalition sources say that senior civil servants have tried to block a far-reaching disclosure of all spending on credit cards.

The final disclosure scheme is likely to be limited to items over £500, meaning that many of the most contentious purchases will not be revealed. Nor will the purchasers be identified.

It is also expected that disclosure rules will apply to the current financial year and future years, meaning that previous spending will not be revealed.

Advice to ministers from officials now circulating in Whitehall is understood to warn against the publication of backdated spending records as “a poor use of resources”. That conclusion is said to have been backed by Sir Gus.

Note that the defence is not that all such sums were repaid by the civil servants: as anyone who has ever had a company credit card knows you stick all sorts of stuff on it but then end up being challenged on each item and cough up a cheque for the personal expenditure.

Note also that the defence isn\’t that for, say, expenditure on an exhibition, this was necessary because the trade representative for Upper Cannibalistan wanted to see it and we\’re sucking up to him.

No, the defence is that supplying the information will cost more than the benefit of doing so. And I\’m afraid that, Sir Gus, when it comes to who has been living high on the hog on our money, we\’ll be the people who deliberate on that fucking question.

As with MPs, with senior police officers and now with the civil service.

Our money, our rules.

By the way, it\’s not actually very expensive to get this information. Just ask the credit card company for the credit card bills for the last decade and then pick any one of the national newspapers to give the whole bundle to.

We\’d be just delighted to go through it all for you.

5 thoughts on “A poor use of resources”

  1. There must be an aspiring Heather Brooke out there somewhere? MPs didn’t think their expenses came under FOI so it must be worth testing civil servants’ expenses through the courts.

    As for a leak, turkeys and Christmas spring to mind.

  2. High time this was exposed.

    Rather pissed off that it comes from hereditary MP Francis “Fuckwit” Maude tho’.

    If we could all inherit a nice £60000 a year (+exes) job off our father we wouldn’t be tempted to fiddle would we….

  3. I don’t often disagree with Tim on these issues, but here I do: how much time and effort does he want to collate all spending to be re-vetted?

    It’s been gone through once, that’s a given (dear God, the only thing worse than submitting a fraudulent expense claim is approving a fraudulent expense claim… maybe I just work in an unusually honest part of MoD)

    A FOI request to any particular UIN will get records for that unit.

    An FOI request to MoD should get all spending: but don’t expect much time or effort to be expended on explaining “AUS$6.99 for 9″ Pepperoni Special from Adelaide Pizza House”. Was that an evening meal for a UK civil servant at much less cost than the hotel restaurant? Pure fraud? Part of a cunningly hidden bribe to a wicked contractor? Or actually funding spent on studying the alien spaceship in the secret bunkers under Portsdown Hill?

    And how much time and effort do you demand for each entry in the ledger, to investigate and explore? And who funds that time?

    I don’t have any problem with the notion of simply submitting the raw data when requested. It’ll be a horror to sort through, but – as Tim says – it’s public money being spent, and if someone wants to double-check it in their own time that’s their right and privilege. The raw data of where public money goes, should be public record.

    So is the problem that as well as demanding the information, someone wants it filtered, processed and analysed in the manner of their choosing at zero cost to them? If that’s the case, sod off, we’ve got real work to do.

    Or is it a cultural issue? That because “the hive” hates the thought of thousands of .xls spreadsheet files coming in individually, that’s ruled out as an acceptable response to outsiders?

    And still thinking on the fly – how long should be spent on any one “I don’t like this claim!” issue? For an example, back in 2009 I went to a conference in Dayton, Ohio at taxpayers’ expense. I flew economy-class on the cheapest flight available – but one passenger decided he felt a bit peaky and needed to disembark and retrieve his luggage, delaying us three hours. As a result, I missed my connection in Detroit, and had nine hours to wait before the next available flight.

    Was the additional meal I ate – at the unavoidably inflated airport prices for a basic cheeseburger – a justified expense to the taxpayer, or should I have gone hungry?

    How long should be spent justifying that additional cost to a self-appointed auditor?

    To whom, in this cost-centre driven world, should that time be charged?

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