Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Come in card number XXX [take your pick], your time is up

The civil service spending scandal contd.

As this news resulted from a Liberal Democrat freedom of information request, Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats had lot to say on the matter (slowing down a little, Western Mail - move your ar*e):

I am extremely concerned by the information I have seen. Every taxpayer in Wales deserves an explanation from the Labour-Plaid Government. While we’re in the middle of a recession, it’s disgusting to know that public officials are flying first class, staying in the most expensive hotels, eating in the best restaurants – all at the swipe of the Welsh credit card.

Of course we should sell Wales overseas, of course that costs money, but these figures suggest a runaway culture of credit card spending.

Ms Williams added:

One credit card holder spent nearly £70,000 in a year on air travel alone. Welsh taxpayers have paid the very luxurious Oberoi Hotel group in India £6,590 this year alone. Staff at the New York office spent £3,537.79 at Macy’s department store and £6,036 at Ikea. The Sydney office spent £5,722 on taxis.

At the same time we can see somebody claiming for 89p spent at McDonald’s in Swansea, and claims for coffees at Starbucks cafes all over the world. Every Welsh taxpayer deserves to see this document, just as they should see politicians’ expenses. It’s a lack of transparency that leads to the sorts of activity these worldwide credit card bills reveal.

Ms Williams called on the Assembly Government to explain why taxpayers’ money was being spent in this way.

The Minister for Economy and Transport has some serious questions to answer: What, if any, procedures are in place to monitor and police spending? What kind of guidance allows civil servants to take first class flights and live this superstar lifestyle? How can we be sure that all of this activity directly generates investment into Wales? Quite frankly, what on earth is going on and what will be done about this?

The spending details revealed included:

“Card Holder 181” (Hong Kong) spent nearly £22,000 in 12 months on luxurious hotels all around the word including cities like Tokyo, Sydney, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Cardiff, staying in hotels like the Hilton, the Oberoi, Westin, Grand Hyatt and the Ritz Carlton. The card holder also spent nearly £70,000 in 12 months on flights.

“Card Holder 708” (New York) spent £9,071.13 in various stores including Ikea, The Land of Nod (children’s bedroom furniture), Macy’s and West Elm (affordable modern furniture). They
are all soft furnishing stores. Card holders at the New York office, based in the Chrysler Building, spent over £3,500 at an Irish pub and Restaurant (‘Clancy’s’) just a few streets from the office building itself.

“Card Holder 314” (New York) spent £2,500 in the teen section of the famous Pottery Barn department store. PBteen is described as “a new catalogue in the Pottery Barn family.” The brand offers products in five key categories: furniture, rugs, lighting, bedding and accessories. PBteen includes hip, exclusively designed lifestyle collections bedrooms, study and lounge areas.

“Card Holder 450” (New York) spent £7,092.73 on air travel, £1,042.33 on taxis, £3,912.07 on hotels across the United States, £2,056.60 on food in restaurants across the US including high-end NewYork eateries. One example involved a bill of £599.42 in Margarita Murphy’s. The same card holder spent £347.11 at Duane Reade, a chain of drug and convenience stores in NewYork. In total, this card holder spent £17,265.71 over 12 months.

“Card Holder 459” (Dubai) spent £26,179.99 with Horizon Tours LLC, a tour operator, as well as £5,786.87 on hotels.

A spokesman for the Assembly’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Dame Gillian Morgan, said: “Any claim incurred on behalf of the Assembly Government must fully comply with strict authorisation and audit requirements.
Given the global nature of their role, International Business Wales (IBW) staff based overseas need to travel to pursue every viable business opportunity. Over the past few years, the number of offices in America and South East Asia has been reduced, and officials now cover a number of countries from their base. While this has led to a significant reduction in the cost of offices, it has inevitably led to an increase in travel associated costs.

However, we are clearly aware of the need to restrict any expenditure to ensure absolute value for money, and overall travel and subsistence costs for IBW are over 30% below the level incurred by the former WDA.

IBW exists to attract job-creating investment from around the world to Wales. It also supports Welsh companies in winning overseas business. Just this year alone, IBW has organised 37 trade missions for Welsh companies, including the recent successful trade mission to Washington DC which was attended by 80 companies from Wales.”

As we have proved with the recent first Ashes Test in Wales, it is essential that we seize every opportunity to raise our profile and generate business opportunities for Wales – particularly during the current global recession

Without demonstrating what may or may not have been achieved for money spent... cost... £750k.

Laying claim to the recent success in staging the first Ashes Test in Wales... cost... priceless cheek.

Blaming the level of credit card bills on a 'necessary expenditure' without evidence of any real benefit, and backing it up with 'it's lower than what the WDA would've spent' ...cost... PRICELESS AND SPEECHLESS.

1 comments:

Anonymous 15 July 2009 at 20:57  

last year, I'd go back and look at the past decasde both inside and outside WAG - the WDA expesnss, those in the know will tell you it was and remains rife.
And why stop at IBW, look at all in WAG with credit cards surely?

I cannot believe the FM was advied that noone travels first class, heads will role for that surely.

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