I want to work in the Department for Communities and Local Government. Honestly, I do. They get to go on trips around the world including the Far East and America and no one at the Department actually keeps any record of why they went. What a life! Even better they let you spends thousands of pounds doing it too. Yay for missing financial audit trails!
Since last July, the DCLG has sent departmental staff on a total of 519 foreign junkets, across Europe and the wider world. Including three visits to the USA and eight visits to the Far East. The total cost of this travel? £197,992. Now that might not sound too bad, after all, divided equally that's only about £300 a trip, but, as ever, the devil in the detail of the breakdown.
Thanks to Caroline Spelman we now, sort of, know what that detail is. As mentioned already, there were merely a handful of trips across the wider continents, 11 in fact. This represents approximately 2% of the foreign trips by DCLG staff since July 2006. However, that 2% of trips accounted for approximately 34% of the total spend on travel (£23,664 for the US and £43,544 for the Far East).
It gets better though, when Caroline Spelman tried to find out what the purpose of these trips was the DCLG said that it "does not hold central records about the purpose of individual overseas trips." It might as well be shopping for all they now! Can they really, seriously, say they have no idea why they spend money on foreign junkets? Imagine if a business was so cavalier with its finances?
I'm not quite sure what is more worrying. That the DCLG lacks any audit trial of the purpose of it spending nearly a quarter of a million on foreign travel over 10 months; or the fact that the department for "local" government and essentially domestic affairs is jaunting around the world at the taxpayers expense.
There is a phrase these days that we should think global and act local (especially on the matter of the enviornment), the DCLG seems to be doing it the other way round. All very odd.