A new FOI submitted to the Welsh Government has revealed the shocking scale of Welsh Government spend on credit cards, known officially as ‘procurement cards’. It also provides a detailed breakdown of each of the 12,648 individual transactions – giving the public an insight into where their money is being spent.
Spend by Welsh Government staff on the credit cards averaged £1.5m a year over the five year Assembly term, with £1.4 million spent by the 237 active cards in 2015/16.
Also revealed in the FOI was a list of thousands of individual transactions during 2015/16, outlined in a 259 page document.
Some of the more eye-catching purchases include:
· £103.91 at Victoria’s Secret; who advertise their products as the “sexiest bras, lingerie and women’s fashion”.
· £377.31 on iTunes subscriptions.
· £370.70 on luxury yachtwear.
· £1569.10 on Welsh cakes [Fabulous Welsh Cakes Ltd].
· £279.90 at ToysRUs.
On three occasions, Welsh Government credit cards were charged for accommodation at the Hotel New Otani, Tokyo – claims totalling £1,450.76. The New Otani Hotel describes itself as “an oasis of calm in the centre of Tokyo” and features a traditional Japanese garden with waterfalls and stunning swimming pools. The cheapest room available would set you back 44,000 Yen - or £313 - per night [price checked on 21/07/16].
Meanwhile, Welsh Government staff were also fortunate enough to enjoy £9043.79 worth of accommodation at the world-famous Raffles hotel in Beijing, whilst the cards were also billed for entry to the prestigious Plage Goeland in Cannes on two occasions.
In addition, the document details an £832.81 payment to Swedish furniture store Ikea, and another bill from Toys R Us for £279.90. The cards were also charged £370.70 for goods/services purchased from purveyors of luxury yacht-wear, Yachtshop.co.uk.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Nick Ramsay, said:
“Huge sums of public money continue to be spent on Welsh Government credit cards, with staff having racked up £7.5 million in bills since 2011.
“Whilst we accept that procurement cards have a role to play in reducing the bureaucratic cost of processing small claims, the number of staff with access to them continues to grow and some of the claims involved are eye-watering and require explanation.
“Millions of pounds are being spent on these cards, and the public needs to have confidence that the system isn’t being abused and that the taxpayer is getting value for money.”
2015/16 saw three payments for accommodation at the Hotel New Otani, Japan, which costs more than £300 a night for a room.
The Hotel New Otani features a luxurious Japanese Garden with waterfalls, rated as one of Japan’s top tourist attractions – HERE.
Mr Ramsay suggested that the hotel was more appropriate for honeymooners than civil servants.
“Whilst staff will legitimately require accommodation when travelling abroad, members of the public may question the need to stay in lavish hotels.
“These expenses need to be kept to reasonable levels and staff and ministers need to be mindful of what constitutes a necessary and legitimate expense."