Friday, October 26, 2007

Watching His Spending

And enjoying every Pound of it going toward the good life:

Sir John Bourn, the Government's spending watchdog, spent £365,000 in travel expenses and £27,000 in restaurant bill in just three years as head of the National Audit Office (NAO).

The auditor general is currently one of the few officials who cannot be sacked by the Government and can only be dismissed after votes in both houses of Parliament. However, following pressure from MPs, Sir John announced yesterday that he would step down in January.

....His six-figure expenses bill is particularly embarrassing for the Government as Sir John was also recruited in 2006 to a new position to police the ministerial code of conduct, which sets out standards of behaviour for ministers. Downing Street said yesterday he would also step down from this role when he retires.

....The Liberal Democrats' Cabinet Office spokesman, Norman Baker, said: "Sir John Bourn has made the correct decision and he should be thanked for the work he has done.

"But the next incumbent cannot end up in a position where he embarrasses the National Audit Office through expenses claims and perceived conflicts of interest."

Earlier this month, the NAO revealed Sir John had been on 43 foreign trips in three years, often accompanied by his wife. They travelled first class on 22 separate occasions including to San Francisco, the Bahamas, Brazil, Lisbon and Venice, at a cost of £76,000. He had also enjoyed 164 lunches and dinners since 2004, including meals at the Ritz, Savoy, Dorchester, Wiltons, Mirabelle and Bibendum. The most expensive bill cost taxpayers £301.

It later emerged he attended sporting events with defence firms, including those who have come under investigation by the NAO for Government deals.

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