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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Fighting institutional secrecy

Having exposed some very dodgy claims amongst MPs, the Daily Telegraph has a new target, spending by civil servants using departmental credit cards. However, they are meeting quite substantial resistance. It is a familiar pattern.

The paper says that the Cabinet Office has refused to give specific information relating to its civil servants, the amounts they have spent and what they have bought. So far, it has only agreed to release the annual totals spent using the cards:

An emergency meeting of civil servants from throughout Whitehall has been called and it is understood that they are looking for ways to prevent full disclosure.

One senior Whitehall source claimed officials were involved in what amounts to a “cover up”.

The source said: “This is not about ministers not wanting this information out there. It is about senior civil servants worried about their past spending, much of it when they were in control of departments during the Labour era.

“The taxpayer has been taken for a huge ride with these cards.”

It is understood that accounting officers and some permanent secretaries are keen to avoid disclosure.

A government source told The Daily Telegraph: “These senior mandarins are simply trying to cover their own backs.”

I am not going to rush to judgement and say that these cards are being abused until I have seen all the evidence. Clearly, though the paper thinks that this is the case. Either way, it is only right that the information is made available so we cab judge for ourself.
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