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October 29, 2005

Those DTI Officials.

The Guardian runs a report on how your tax money gets spent:

A "culture of excess" at the Department of Trade and Industry is laid bare in a confidential report leaked to the Guardian which shows officials spending nights in expensive hotels, hiring BMW cars, having unrestricted use of government mobile phones and consuming large quantities of cocktails at taxpayers' expense.

When accountants Ernst & Young questioned an official about her study of British export prospects in Barbados, their report says: "[She] admitted that they had not conducted market research, but had, in fact, spent the afternoon on the beach."

The confidential inquiry into the DTI's export agency, UK Trade & Investment, has already led to the sacking of one senior official, international trade director David Train, and the suspension and continued investigation of three of his colleagues, including Mr Train's deputy Franc Sullivan.

Ernst & Young's preliminary report, delivered on July 19, outlines spending at the agency's Christmas lunch for 10 staff last year. It was held at a hired room at the Hilton Metropole in London, and paid for with a government-issue Barclaycard. The report said that a bar was opened shortly after 2pm and closed at 7.17pm. During that time £475 was spent on drinks: two beers; 14 vodkas and mixers; 23 gin and tonics; 11 bottles of wine; seven litres of sparkling water; three Irish coffees; five coffees; three whisky shots; three shots of Cointreau; two Cosmopolitan cocktails; two Bloody Marys; three Mojito cocktails and two BaseLine cocktails. Ernst & Young wrote: "We consider this expenditure to be excessive and in contravention of DTI policy".

Bureaucrats are, of course, hard working public servants who give up the opportunity to make much more in the private sector in order to to provide the public goods that cannot be obtained by any other means.

There is also no such thing as producer capture nor public choice theory. Simply selfless devotees of the common good.


October 29, 2005 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink


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DTI officials are accused of wasting public money. If they have done what the media say, they should be reprimanded. There are, and should be, strict rules against abuse of public funds. But the private sector wastes your money too. ... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 31, 2005 10:28:50 PM


This case only receives so much attention because it is a relatively isolated example. It's also interesting that it features DTI officials who probably work more closely than any other bureaucrats with ... the private sector! Maybe some of that private sector 'ethos' rubbed off.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 29, 2005 11:11:31 AM

A government-issue Barclaycard, I wonder how many of those are floating around?

On the face of it, I don't see any of these things as particularly bad. A lot of private companies pay for their staff to have a Xmas party. Top officials might expect to stay in reasonable hotels (if it's the teaboy staying at the Ritz, that's a different matter, of course). A lot of us would try to steal some time on the beach if sent abroad, etc.

Posted by: Rub-a-dub | Oct 29, 2005 11:15:37 AM

I spent three days last year in Bilbao with a couple of colleagues, staying in an airport hotel next to a very smelly noisy factory under the main flightpath, auditing the University's use of one of our grants, and I could see the Guggenheim out of the window of our audit room, taunting me, calling me forth with its siren song of tortured metal.

Did we bunk off and go and see the modern art?

No we didn't. We got our noses stuck in on the chaotic grindstone of what academics seem to consider acceptable as "accounts", and in the end still had to run from their offices for our plane.

Beaches? Cocktails? I don't understand how those DTI civil servants managed to live with themselves.

Posted by: auntymarianne | Oct 30, 2005 8:45:21 AM