More4 blows lid off quango expenses

Posted on 30 Oct 2009 by The Manufacturer

An investigation by Channel 4 subsidiary More4 has revealed an expenses bill totaling almost £1million shared between the boards of 24 government quangos over three years.

Expense claims include the membership of an exclusive Pall Mall club, worldwide business class flights, and over £5,000 on alcohol for just one organisation’s board meetings.

The 24 quangos are ones commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) as well as the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The total expenses for the 24 comes to £969,690.50 from 2006 to 2009. It is made up of claims from each body’s full time chief executive and other board members who typically work 20 days a year.

Travel expenses were the biggest contributor to the total bill, accounting for £670,254.57. Within this figure, £48,188.06 is attributed to flights taken by the chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Total ‘entertaining’ expenses came to £114,468.04.

There is currently no centralized regulation for how quangos allocate cash and Nick Hurd MP, the Conservative Shadow Minister for Charities, and formerly Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, said the huge bill “is probably a symbol of a bigger problem inside quangos about attitudes towards spending public money.”

Not all quangos have spent as liberally as the worst offenders. Paul Lander, director of Corporate Services at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, said: “Because we are working with public funds, we take the view that we should be looking to minimise our expenses. Therefore all travel is second class rail, unless there are very exceptional circumstances for doing otherwise. And whilst we are prepared to reimburse people for food, we don’t reimburse people for alcohol.”

Dr Tony Wright MP (Lab), head of the Public Administration Select Committee, called for clear, stamdardized rules with more transparency as to where money is spent and how much.

More4 said the bill should be considered within the context that there are 790 government quangos altogether.

The Cabinet Office declined to comment on the findings.