|A catalogue of excess spending on Government credit cards has emerged in recent weeks.
Everything from a limousine tour of California to Apple iPads and luxury hotel rooms has been paid for on the procurement cards.
And when civil servants are not flashing the plastic, their town hall colleagues milk the taxpayer-funded perk to pay for high-end international trips.
Last year alone, Government departments ran up £25 million in credit card bills on first-class flights, five-star hotels, exclusive restaurants and shopping sprees.
Despite orders to tighten their belts and cut budgets, civil servants spent more than £370,000 on food. Golf, theatre trips and other leisure activities soaked up another £117,000.
Almost £3 million went on travel, half of it on plush hotels in exotic locations in countries including Mexico, Indonesia and Dubai.
There are more than 140,000 procurement cards in use across Government departments and quangos.
But some of the exposed spending has sparked condemnation from Coalition Ministers and value-for-money campaigners alike.
The disclosure of bills from recent years revealed that civil servants lavished more than £60,000 on dining at top-rated restaurants. They included the Cinnamon Club in Westminster and Quo Vadis, a private dining club in Soho. Another £5,000 was spent on fast food.
Nearly £500,000 went on shopping sprees on websites such as Amazon and stores including Harrods.
Mandarins also used the cards to settle bills at luxury resorts, such as the Shangri La in Sydney, Australia. In addition, more than £2 million went on away days and residential training at exclusive British retreats.
It has emerged that on a trip to California in 2008, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport spent £4,400 on limousines from a firm promising the ‘most luxurious fleet’.
Margaret Hodge, then Labour Culture Minister, also blew thousands to stay with two civil servants in the five-star Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica on a PR trip. It caters for ‘discriminating guests seeking luxury and pampering’.
The Department for International Development, which oversees Britain’s aid to poor countries, used the plastic to pay for £190,000 of flights last year and stay at grand resorts in places like Dubai. Two months ago, the Cabinet Office was accused of refusing to release details of individual spending by civil servants. However, critic Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has claimed the card system led to a ‘breakdown of financial controls’.
And the TaxPayers’ Alliance called the bills ‘astonishing’, adding: ‘It’s unacceptable that some departments could not provide details. Taxpayers have a right to know where their money has gone.’
Away from Whitehall, councillors and officials have run up a bill topping £4 million on trips since 2008, settled by procurement cards.