.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"One last blast before we go"

According to today's Wales on Sunday the WDA, the government quango responsible for boosting jobs in Wales, has blown almost £150,000 of public money on a six-month blitz entertaining clients.

These 'events' took place between November 2004 and April 2005 and were largely put on for businesses and politicians. They included almost £28,000 on a trip to the Hong Kong Sevens to "target Chinese and Australian multipliers and business projects", £9,500 on three visits to America to watch the Miami Dolphins football and Boston Celtics basketball teams, and £15,000 on hospitality for London firms at the Wales v England Six Nations tie.

These facts have emerged through a Freedom of Information request which has underlined how accessible such information is. How this corporate hospitality will be handled once the WDA has been merged into government and whether the details will be so readily available for scrutiny has yet to be seen.

Although I rarely accept such hospitality myself, I note that it is part of the normal way of doing business. However, Tory economic development spokesperson, Alun Cairns, is particularly scathing:

"When hundreds of WDA staff are facing redundancy as a result of the merger with the Welsh Assembly Government, it will be difficult for the Agency to explain why thousands of pounds are being spent on events such as the Miami Dolphins.

"This is more akin to a holiday treat rather than the promotion of Wales as an inward investment opportunity.

"There is no doubt some hospitality is needed but it seems to me that the line has been crossed and hospitality for investors is now a perk for WDA executives."

Alun is also parsimonious in his acceptance of hospitality. His register of interests merely lists a "TMA event and hospitality" and "overnight accommodation, hospitality and match tickets for the Community Shield following 'Parliamentary Shield' charity football match sponsored by McDonalds." Oh, yes, and a visit to the Falklands Islands paid for by the Falkland Island Government.

The real issue on the WDA hospitality however, is that raised by Jenny Randerson. "It's not the amount of money they spent, it's a question of whether we're getting a return on that money." No doubt the Minister will be answering questions on that in due course.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?