Information the Welsh Liberal Democrats and I have obtained under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a culture of shocking spending excess within the Labour-Plaid Government’s International offices.
The figures show that 34 WAG credit card holders, working in offices around the world on behalf of the Welsh taxpayer, spent a total of £718,434.17 over the past 12 months. The New York Office alone spent some £253,114.73 on credit cards in 2008/09. (1st June 2008 -31st May 2009).
This information reveals the high living lifestyle enjoyed across the world at Welsh taxpayer’ s expense. The itemised credit card bills reveal a who’s who of the world’s most expensive hotels, restaurants and the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent on flights.
I am extremely concerned by the information I have seen. Every taxpayer in Wales deserves an explanation from the Labour-Plaid Government. Whilst we’re in the middle of a recession it’ s disgusting to know that public officials are flying first class, staying in the most expensive hotels, eating in the best restaurants -all at the swipe of the Welsh credit card. Of course we should sell Wales overseas, of course that costs money but these figures suggest a runaway culture of credit card spending.
One credit card holder spent nearly £70,000 in a year on air travel alone. Welsh taxpayers have paid the very luxurious Oberoi Hotel group in India £6,590 this year alone. Staff at the New York office spent £3,537.79 at Macy’s department store and £6,036 at IKEA. The Sydney office spent £5,722 on taxis. At the same time we can see somebody claiming for 89p McDonalds in Swansea, we can see claims for coffees at Starbucks cafes all over the world. Every Welsh taxpayer deserves to see this document, just as they should see politician’s expenses. It’s a lack of transparency that leads to the sorts of activity these worldwide credit card bills reveal.
The Minister for Economy and Transport has some serious questions to answer: What, if any procedures are in place to monitor and police spending? What kind of guidance allows civil servants to take first class flights and live this superstar lifestyle? How can we be sure that all of this activity directly generates investment into Wales? Quite frankly, what on earth is going on and what will be done about this?