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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Lessons In Waste: Where Do Your Taxes Go?

Too late, we've learned that senior civil servants turned state's evidence on their New Labour masters, marking an audit trail with "letters of direction" for the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. According to Bloomberg:
"On 13 occasions between the start of 2009 and April 2010, civil servants asked ministers for a “letter of direction,” according to figures originally released by the Treasury in April. In the previous four years, only four such letters were requested, according to the Treasury."
The Public Accounts Committee's reports make grim reading for anyone interested in low cost government, tracing waste and ineptitude from early in the New Labour regime. For example, on 8 April it had this to say about an HM Customs & Excise private finance contract:
In 2001 the Inland Revenue and HM Customs & Excise, now HM Revenue & Customs (the Department), signed a 20-year contract with Mapeley STEPS Contractor Limited, one of several companies in the Mapeley Group, transferring ownership and management of 60% of its estate. At contract signature the Department expected to pay £3.3 billion (2009 prices) over the 20 years of the contract. To date it has paid 20% (£312 million) more than expected, and now expects to pay £3.87 billion over the 20 years. Moreover, signing a contract which involved tax avoidance through an offshore company has been highly damaging to the Department's reputation.
The sale of the public stake in British Energy was also revealed as ham-fisted, as has been the handling of the £1.85bn in overpaid benefits.

The sickening list goes on and on and on. And of course even more waste is featured regularly in Private Eye.

It's a crying shame to be pouring extra taxes into such a leaky bucket as the UK public sector. So, all the more reason to engage with Where Does My Money Go?

Image from the Open Knowledge Foundation
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