Keeping secret

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The possible top man here has an interesting record
The WG was ordered to comply with the law but complainant still unhappy

A furious South Wales voter trying to discover why thousands of pounds was spent on luxury items using a Welsh Government (WG) procurement card, remains unhappy with the response even after officials were ordered to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), it has emerged.

 

The angry Welsh resident still wants receipts made public for the £100 spent in the luxury lingerie shop Victoria’s Secret, information about more than £9,000 which was billed for staying at the Raffles Hotel in Beijing, more about the £1,400 spent at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, and details of the two transactions at the InterContinental Hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Where are the receipts?

In all, she still demands receipts for these items on a WG card:

  • £370 of luxury yachtwear.
  • iTunes subscriptions totalling £377.32.
  • More than £1,500 of Welsh cakes.
  • A ToysRUs transaction of nearly £280.
  • £100 spent in Victoria’s Secret.
  • Bills for accommodation included stays worth £9,043.79 at the Raffles Hotel in Beijing.
  • £1,450.76 at the £300-a-night Hotel New Otani in Tokyo.
  • Two transactions at the InterContinental Hotel in the Qatari capital Doha.
  • A Bags4Everything purchase of £45.99.
Why was money spent in Victoria’s Secret?

In the response, the WG said:  “The Victoria’s Secret transaction was made through fraudulent use of the card details by a third party.

“This was flagged by the Welsh Government’s procurement card provider and the purchase did not involve a Welsh Government employee.

The WG must abide by the law

“The amount was refunded by the card provider themselves and the card cancelled and reissued.

“As no Welsh Government employees were involved the Welsh Government does not hold any receipt in respect of this transaction.

“We have a record of one case in which a card holder used a Welsh procurement card in error and accidently to purchased (sic) personal items.” 

Information Commissioner was worried by WG behaviour

But the voter remains deeply dissatisfied.

She told The Eye:  The WG is continuing to avoid giving information on the procurement card purchases of underwear, expensive foreign hotels and luxury yachtwear, despite the Information Commissioner’s decision.

“The financially hard-pressed Welsh public should know why these purchases were made by the WG, even if the underwear purchase has now been repaid.

Information about what was happening has been hard to get hold of

“Surely the WG has nothing to hide?”

The shock news comes after we revealed how the WG broke the law in withholding information about the controversial cards.

Hundreds of them are in circulation and have been used to spend more than £4 million of taxpayers’ money over the last four years.

Surely the public can be told?

The Information Commission Office (ICO) ruled:  “The Commissioner’s decision is that the Welsh Government in failing to provide appropriate advice and assistance in its response to both the original and refined request has breached Section 16 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)… The Welsh Government cannot rely on Section 12 in respect of the complainant’s refined request”.

Taxpayers money spent on lingerie?

The WG had provided an explanation of why it had withheld information, but the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, was dismissive, and her office said:  “The Commissioner does not accept this…”

The devastating ruling went on to state:  “The Commissioner is concerned at the Welsh Government’s continued narrow interpretation of the complainant’s requests and its failure to engage further with either the complainant or the ICO…”

The Tories asked the Welsh Audit Office to intervene

The history of procurement cards is contentious, and the Conservatives have called on the Wales Audit Office (WAO) to review their use.

In November 2015 it was reported that the WG had refused to publish the findings of a review by its own Internal Audit Service.

Approximately £1.3m was spent using the cards in 2014-15.

But unfortunately getting details of why more was spent fraudulently is difficult.

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The Eye is edited by Phil Parry. Phil is a former BBC news and current affairs reporter. He is winner of the BT Wales award for journalist of the year, BT Wales TV reporter of the year and radio reporter of the year.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Knickers, luxury hotels, international travel! Yeah baby, I want one of those cards! It gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘procurement’.

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