If George Osborne thinks that attacking civil service expenses is an easy way to save some money, there's good news and bad news in a new report from FairFX. On the plus side, more than a quarter of employees readily admit to putting personal expenditure on their company expenses – so there's probably plenty of naughtiness on which to crack down. Then again, since dubious expenses are still apparently costing businesses £3.5bn a year, the problem might not be an easy one to solve...
On average, FairFX reckons employees fraudulently claim a whopping £462. The promotions industry and graduates are the most frequent claimants, but it's accountants who claim the most - an average of £1,070 per year, to be precise. We suppose it must help to know how to fiddle the figures. The second worst offenders – and try to conceal your surprise here – are the ‘financial’ industries; yes, it's those pesky bankers again, apparently pocketing an average of 850 fraudulent quid a year. There's something for Vince Cable to get his teeth into once he’s settled into his role at BIS.
What's more, staff are apparently spending a quarter of this money on travel and 40% on food and alcohol. In this supposed age of austerity, it sounds like they’re having altogether too much fun. Although disappointingly, there was no mention of duck islands in the survey; since Sir Peter Viggers (the MP concerned) insists there was nothing fraudulent about his claims, perhaps FairFX decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
However, thanks to the excess of Viggers et al, cleaning up Westminster is a hot topic at the moment. And judging by George Osborne's first round of cuts yesterday, civil servants are likely to be caught in the crossfire. In among the recruitment freeze, contract renegotiatons and quangocide, the Chancellor also said that there'd be much a tighter rein on things like first-class travel - while the days of high-quality paperclips, expensive biros and single-sided printing will no doubt soon be a thing of the past. Although they're unlikely to be complaining too much if they manage to keep their job at all...
Never mind, though – the sun is shining (for today, at least), so let’s all go out and enjoy ourselves. Just try to avoid pulling out that company credit card in the process.
In today's bulletin:
BT unions demand inflation-busting pay rise - or they'll strike
Game on for Ballmer as Microsoft launches management shake-up
Sales in a vacuum: Dyson gadgets a cost worth paying
The Parent Project: Planes, trains and queue-jumping
Employees fess up to fiddling expenses