Government Procurement Card, Mr Bumble and the Cinammon Club

You couldn't make it up.  The latest expose in various papers today was the use of the GPC (Government Procurement Card).  Here is the Daily Mail;

More than 140,000 senior public sector workers used government-issue cards to spend a fortune, some of it on fine dining, wine and £100 taxi rides. In 2009 alone they spent almost £1billion, four times as much as in 2002 and enough to pay the salaries of 50,000 nurses. Since 2002, the total has reached £5billion.

Examples include Trevor Phillips of the Equality and Human Rights Commission spending £94 on a bottle of wine at the Cinammon CLub (the most overpriced restaurant in Westminster) .  And, of course as the Mail reported

Stephen Macvicar, a procurement manager at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, faced a probe last year for allegedly 'misusing' his GPC to fund his passion for musical theatre. The 41-year-old was sued by his former bosses for £58,000 after it was claimed he used the card to stage amateur dramatics productions- including one in which he played the greedy Mr Bumble in Oliver!

Much of that was spent on theatrical props to support his AmDram habit. As a former stalwart of the Windsor Theatre Guild I can sympathise*.

But of course the reporting suggests that all this is 'fat cat' type spend, when actually procurement cards are a very useful process tool that avoid the need for millions of low value, inefficient transactions across the public sector (and the private sector).  They undoubtedly save the taxpayer money.

Any 'tool' or process is only as good as the controls around it, and certainly every GPC transaction should be authorised, and every user must understand the parameters for use.  I personally think the £94 bottle of wine is appalling and pretty unforgivable ; does that organisation have no T&E type policy in place?

And once the post election squeeze starts biting in the public sector, we're going to find the media, the opposition and the public very interested in this sort of thing.  So get your house in order; if you use GPC, make sure your policy, guidance, audit and controls are watertight before you find yourself on the front page of the Mail!

* I left the Guild in 1986 due to artistic differences; I thought I could act and they didn't......!!

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