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Taxpayers Cash Spent on Dance Lessons and Chocolate Making

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Taxpayers Cash Spent on Dance Lessons and Chocolate Making

Post  Panda on Mon 5 Dec - 10:09

Taxpayers' Cash Spent On Dance Lessons And Chocolate Making





























Sophy Ridge

December 05, 2011 8:28 AM


















Many
in Westminster feel that taxpayer-funded credit cards - known as
government procurement cards - could be the next expenses scandal.
Now
Waste Watch has discovered civil servants at the Department of Health
used the cards to pay for dance lessons, chocolate making and ten-pin
bowling.
An investigation using the Freedom of
Information Act and Government records shows the department spent £9.2m
between 2008 and 2011 on around 200 procurement cards.
The
vast majority relates to justifiable spending on office supplies and
travel - but Waste Watch has uncovered some more questionable uses of
taxpayers’ money.
For instance, officials spent £2,404 at The Chocolate Tart in October 2009 - a chocolate cookery school in Bristol.
And £140 was paid to Discovery walks in London - which offers Jack the Ripper and Harry Potter tours - in July 2010.
Officials
also spent £440 on dance centres and £150 on ten-pin bowling, and
enjoyed fine dining in some of the country’s best restaurants at the
taxpayers’ expense.
The records reveal expensive meals
in top restaurants including Quaglino's, Tom's Kitchen and the Cinnamon
Club and nights in expensive hotels such as Manchester’s The Lowry and
The Goring in Belgravia - where Kate Middleton stayed the night before
her wedding to Prince William.
Thousands of pounds of public money has gone on flowers, alcohol, gift vouchers and even fancy dress.
And there have been many smaller transactions at Boots, HMV, M&S, Argos, John Lewis, Comet, Currys and Pret A Manger.
A
Department of Health spokesperson said: "A Government Procurement Card
is a credit card which enables a small number of cardholders to make
departmental purchases of up to £4,000. The card is limited to specific
uses and all purchases have to be formally approved.
"Using
the card reduces the costs of processing large volumes of low-value
transactions through purchase orders and saves the taxpayer around £28
per transaction."
The coalition wants to crack down on
the expenditure after a report by Topshop boss Sir Philip Green found £1
billion was spent on 140,000 cards every year.
Data
obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Waste Watch shows other
NHS bodies are also running up big bills on procurement cards.
NHS Doncaster bought two Nintendo Wiis costing £194 and £249 in 2009, used for a prize draw and health awareness events.
The
trust also spent hundreds of pounds on M&S and Debenhams vouchers
for retirement gifts in 2009, £50.75 on Stuart Crystal glasses from John
Lewis given to a volunteer and £338 on fancy dress costumes for an
awareness event on mental health in 2010.
A spokesperson
said: "The card’s use is in line with agreed procurement and governance
arrangements and we have been able to use it to purchase goods at a
reduced rate over the internet and at times for speed-purchasing direct
from suppliers rather than using the NHS procurement arrangements."
NHS
Surrey spent £28,000 on procurement cards in 2010/11, including £13.42
at Sainsbury’s, £7 at Poundland, £19.51 at Waitrose, £73.50 on flowers
and £59.99 on a microwave from Currys.
A spokesperson
said: "The use of procurement cards is closely scrutinised to ensure
they are only used appropriately and for approved purchases, the
majority of which directly relate to patient care."
The
CEO of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals spent £1777.69 on hotels
and £923.40 on six visits to the Last Wine Bar in 2010/11, while the
Director of Resources spent £3,156.95 on hotels.
A spokesperson said: "The information relates to expenses for a number of people and not just an individual.
"Hotel
bills, for example, include groups of staff where payment was made on
just the one card. Similarly, items relating to restaurant bills involve
meals bought for consultant doctors who have recently joined the trust.

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