UK investigation into government official who spent huge amount of taxpayer money on luxury chocolate just before Christmas cost four times as much as candy


FILE PHOTO: Hotel Chocolat products are on sale at Rabot 1745, London Reuters

  • EXCLUSIVE: UK spent £ 23,000 investigating why £ 6,000 worth of chocolate was bought with a government credit card before Christmas.

  • “We appreciate that the cost of the investigation was higher than the expenses she was investigating,” an official said.

  • One activist said the use of taxpayer money was a “joke”.

  • See more stories on the Insider business page.

The UK data protection agency spent £ 23,000 ($ 31,000) to investigate why a staff member spent more than £ 6,000 on fancy chocolate in violation of its spending rules.

In February, Insider exclusively reported that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) opened an investigation after an employee spent £ 6,248.40 (around $ 8,500) on a company charge card four days before Christmas.

The amount was spent at the luxury chocolatier Hotel Chocolat.

On September 28, after a seven-month investigation, the ICO issued a statement explaining that the money was spent on 254 identical gifts, each totaling £ 24.60, for ICO staff members.

What they haven’t said publicly is that the investigation, conducted by law firm Forbes Solicitors, cost four times the amount of the original expenses. In response to an access to information request, the ICO admitted that Forbes Solicitors had been paid £ 23,027 to investigate.

“While the spending was aimed at recognizing the hard work of these staff during a difficult year, the investigation confirmed that it was not in line with our policies for recognizing or spending staff on buying gifts. for staff using public funds, ”an ICO spokesperson said in the statement. declaration.

The organization apologized for the incident and said: “We have taken action in response to the findings of the investigation, implementing all recommendations in full, so that this does not happen again.

“We have also appointed a new CFO to strengthen oversight of our financial controls and training of our staff.”

The information was requested by data protection expert Tim Turner. He told Insider he didn’t understand why investigating the prohibited expenses itself cost more than the actual mistake itself.

“There is an element of wanting to give them credit for recognizing how much it cost, but this is an indictment of the incompetent and debauched senior management of the ICO,” he said.

“Whoever is ultimately responsible for this farce shouldn’t be involved in running a phone booth book exchange, let alone making spending decisions in a major regulatory body.”

When asked if he thought the investigation was good value for money, Turner said, “This may not be the worst example of an ICO paying money by the windows, but it’s iconic how they casually throw money away.

“£ 23,000 to investigate a single well-intentioned policy violation that cost a quarter of that.”

The ICO said: “We understand that the cost of the investigation was greater than the expenses it was investigating, but it was important that any investigation be completely independent and be seen as an investment in continuous improvement and mitigation. future compliance risks. “

Forbes Solicitors did not respond to a request for comment.

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