Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell is fighting a desperate battle with MPs and journalists in refusing to disclose the scale of potential theft and fraud amongst those using the government procurement card (GPC). Limited disclosure of transactions to date has revealed that senior civil servants are illegally charging personal expenditure to the cards - otherwise known as stealing - on a widespread basis. It is difficult to estimate, but likely that theft from the taxpayer runs into at least hundreds of pounds by individual Whitehall mandarins. O'Donnell is desperate to keep details from the public including 'improper spending' (theft) on booze, fine-dining, theatres, furniture, clothing and electrical goods by the Whitehall nomenklatura.
With sentences now being handed down for theft including six months imprisonment for theft of £3.50 of bottled water, and five months for possession of a stolen pair of shorts, value unknown but unlikely to be over £10, O'Donnell's efforts to 'forgive' his civil servants all thefts under £500 is out of tune with the mood of the nation and the actions of the courts. There is no reason why a civil servant who has improperly defrauded the taxpayer out of £3.50 for bottled water on the GPC should not also serve six months in prison.
If Cameron's 'zero tolerance' means anything, it must extend to not only the immediate dismissal of any civil servant guilty of theft, but their prosecution in the courts. There cannot be one law for the poor and dispossessed and another for the privileged elite of Whitehall. To this end, there must be a full criminal investigation into spending on the GPC. It's time for Cameron to over-rule his chief mandarin.