The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has rejected just one claim out of more than 18,000 in the year to March 2021, which has raised eyebrows over at spend management firm Emburse.
Across all government departments, rejected expense claims make up just 0.07 per cent of the total 2.95m submitted between 2019 and 2021, according to data obtained via a Freedom of Information request, shared exclusively with City A.M. today.
Of the 23 ministerial departments sent the FOI request by Emburse, only 14 responded within the legal window, with two units claiming to have no access to any of the data requested.
Some departments refused to respond entirely, Emburse added, including the Home Office, the PM’s Office and the Ministry of Justice.
“Given the increased cost of living in the UK, it’s vital that the government leads by example,” senior vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Emburse, Kenny Eon said.
“When we’re all expected to tighten our belts, I think the public has a right to know if taxpayers’ money is being squandered through outdated, inefficient processes, and a lack of oversight.”
More than half of the 14 departments that responded said they have no rejected expense claims, despite over 2.9m being submitted by their employees over the two-year period.
The Treasury turned down 12 per cent of claims. While the Ministry of Defence (MOD) rejected 0.2 per cent of its staff expenses.
A BEIS spokesperson said: ”Expense claims submitted by staff are approved by line managers who have a direct knowledge of their activities. In addition, all claims are subject to Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA) reviews on a quarterly basis.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which processed the most claims – over 1.6m expenses over the two-year period – also outsourced its claims reviewal process to the GIAA.
The data also found that no individuals were dismissed or disciplined for misuse of expenses where fraudulent claims were found.
Of those that responded to the request, the investigation found that only four departments reported rejecting expenses, while five departments – which processed over 1.7m expenses – could not access any data on rejected claims, despite HMRC’s requirements to retain expense information for six years.
“Whether this points to departments using outdated processes that are unable to effectively identify out-of-policy spend, a lack of staffing, or a lack of auditing of expenses, the potential loss of taxpayer money in the staggering amounts that is suggested by this data is quite startling,” Eon added.