Government staff abuse credit card privileges, again

5th September 2012  

Nothing gets the public’s goat more than disingenuous promises by our political leaders – something we have unfortunately almost become inured to over the past few decades. However the public are rightly disgruntled and not a little angry at the latest outrageous credit card spend by Government officials, including stays at luxury hotels both overseas and in London and restaurant bills which amount to more than a minimum wage worker earns in a month.

Also on the latest hit list are four over-priced iPads and trips to the London Eye. But the most enigmatic item on this latest list is a ‘specialist’ chair purchased for more than £800 by the Rural Payments Agency. And all this at a time when everyone is supposed to be tightening their fiscal belts and we’re all making cuts for ‘the greater good’ of UK PLC’s economic future…

Latest figures make the taxpayer blow a gasket

Latest information shows totals spent on Government Procurement Cards (credit cards funded by the taxpayer) during 2010/11 was £987million, which rose to £1.15billion during 2011/12. This rise of an incredible £160million makes the already boiling blood of the electorate rise even higher whilst throwing egg all over Mr Cameron’s face.

The Prime Minister had previously spoken about MP’s expenses during his election campaign, branding it as a ‘hideous waste’ and promised if elected to significantly reduce the credit card spend across both Government and local authorities.

Who is given a Government Procurement credit card?

The Government Procurement Cards are issued to around 150,000 higher-end Government officials across the UK, including local authority Chief Execs and other civil servants, high-ranking employees of the BBC and other assorted quangos.

Clearly the Prime Minister has not heeded the warning issued by the Public Accounts Committee some months ago, which declared a complacency culture was breeding within the sectors of those to whom the cards were given.

Whilst the Government has admitted that spending has increased (could it really do anything else?) the Cabinet Office goes on to declare that although spending has risen across the public sector the Whitehall spend has actually decreased.

Even if the above statement is accurate, it is no excuse. The Government cannot simply wash its hands of its responsibility to the taxpayer. The Government, as the overall authority that issues these credit cards to individuals, must be ready to penalise those who abuse the public purse and be seen to do so.

Ironically the UK Government has always taken individual credit spending seriously and has been responsible for setting up various organisations and advisory bodies including Citizens Advice with debt counsellors on hand to help people towards responsible spending and the successful management of credit card issues. Now it would appear our Government would do well to take a leaf out of the book they themselves have written.

Credit cards are a convenient and safe way to purchase items and with the many attractive 0% options and advantageous balance transfer terms available it is understandable that people would want to use them. But, as with most good things in life, moderation is the watchword and one our present Government would do well to observe.

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