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By Jonathan Isaby
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Griffiths Andrew Burton MP Andrew Griffiths has uncovered through a written parliamentary question how staff from public spending watchdogs have been wining and dining each other at the taxpayer's expense.

He asked the DCLG "on what dates representatives of the Audit Commission dined with representatives of the National Audit Office paid for by the public purse since 2007-08; in which restaurants each meal took place; and at what cost".

The Audit Commission is of course responsible for auditing the spending of taxpayers' money and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced its abolition last year. It has come in for criticism before over its profligacy with public funds.

Anyhow, the following reply to Griffiths enquiry came back from the chief executive of the Audit Commission, Eugene Sullivan:

The Commission has paid for meals with the NAO on five occasions since 2007/08:

  • 1 November 2007 the then MD, Communications met with Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General NAO for lunch. Information on the location and cost is no longer available.
  • 3 December 2007 Steve Bundred, Chief Executive and Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO, dined at L'Escargot at a cost of £103.39;
  • 5 May 2009 Steve Bundred, Chief Executive, Michael O'Higgins, Chairman and Amyas Morse, Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO dined at Qurinale at a cost of £240.19;
  • 14 September 2009 David Walker, MD Communications met with Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General NAO at the Ebury Wine Bar at a cost of £53.04; and
  • 7 April 2010 David Walker, MD Communications met with Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General NAO at the Footstool restaurant at a cost of £22.50.

The Commission dined with the NAO on three occasions where the Commission did not pay.

  • 11 June 2007 Steve Bundred, Chief Executive and Sir John Bourn, Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO met for dinner at Wiltons;
  • 15 January 2009 David Walker, MD Communications met with Gabrielle Cohen, Assistant Auditor General NAO for lunch at the Ebury Wine Bar; and
  • 2 February 2011 Eugene Sullivan, Chief Executive had a breakfast meeting with the Comptroller and Auditor General of the NAO, Amyas Morse at the Mint Hotel.

It is unclear whether or not the NAO footed the bill for those latter three engagements.

Andrew Grififths responded thus:

"The Audit Commission continues to make a mockery of its position as the council spending watchdog. These latest revelations of quangos dining quangos are an insult to the taxpayers it was set up to protect and represent the culture of waste allowed to fester under a Labour government. By opening up the books and shining a spotlight on waste, it is thanks to this Government that people can now see the abuse of taxpayer funds that Labour and its cronies spent years trying to cover up. We will continue to root out waste of public expenditure and lead the way in ensuring taxpayers get value for money."

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