Having already gotten local authorities publishing transactions over £500 in the name of transparency, it seems that the use of the Government Procurement Card (GPC) – suitably misnamed as a credit card is now stirring up passions. The Daily Mail has been leading the charge, rather surprisingly being joined by the Daily Telegraph, with stories of waste, extravagance and abuse of taxpayers’ money by profligate local authorities. It took an excellent letter to the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 31st May by Councillor Peter Martin - CONSERVATIVE, Leader of Essex County CC to put the record straight on the purpose of these cards.
Tackling waste and the abuses of taxpayers (i.e. our) money is a perfectly laudable objective and one which has always commanded our 100% support. But is the Coalition playing the role of a master illusionist on this one? On transparency setting the limit at over £2,000 would net 82% of expenditure but mean that only 17% of transactions would need to be published. The objective of this would be to allow people to focus on the big spend areas in more detail. Similarly, with Procurement Cards, there are first class audit trails and reporting capability, which most councils use to audit for any abuses and misappropriation.
So why are we the electorate being fed with stories about trivia? Surely it can have nothing to do with discouraging people from looking at where the real waste is to be found - in the many PFI contacts let under the last government, in the big outsourcing deals such as South West One, and in the technology and consultancy categories to name but three?
No, that is clearly nonsense – why would any politician not want full transparency and public debate in those spend areas?