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Civil servants criticised by auditors for accepting freebies

By Christopher Hope

CIVIL servants have been criticised by auditors for accepting tens of thousands of pounds worth of freebies including tickets to the FA Cup final and the Harry Potter film studios, iPads and a £300 Mont Blanc pen.

The husbands, wives and children of Whitehall’s most powerful mandarins were also given tickets to events such as the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, music recitals and operas on 35 occasions. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte, the accountancy firms, and BAE Systems were all in the top five organisations providing hospitality to mandarins, the National Audit Office found.

Senior civil servants in 17 departments accepted gifts and hospitality worth £29,000 in 2014-15. The NAO found the officials at three departments – the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, HM Revenue and Customs and the Ministry of Defence – had accepted perks worth about £150,000. Offi- cials were treated to dinners at central London restaurants.

The auditors said acceptance of hospitality had to be in the “interests of departments and government objectives”, and that it had “identified some examples where this might not have happened”. These included “tickets to, or hospitality at, sporting events”.

The NAO said: “Although the total value of hospitality accepted may not be high, the reputational risks around accepting it can be substantial.” Louise Haigh, a Labour MP, said the report “confirms the lopsided approach of this government – skewed entirely towards big business”.

An HMRC spokesman said: “We are scrupulous in ensuring that any gifts and hospitality received by HMRC officials are proportionate, appropriate and within Civil Service guidelines.”

An MoD spokesman said: “The MoD is committed to upholding both the Civil Service code and Queen’s regulations on acceptance of gifts and hospitality.”





Daily Telegraph