1. ITV Report

Chocolates, lingerie and Michelin-starred meals among Welsh Government purchases

Photo: PA Images

Welsh Government credit cards have been used to pay for hundreds of pounds worth of scarves and chocolates while thousands has been spent on luxury dining and hotels, figures reveal.

More than £1.8 million was spent on Government credit cards in 2016/17 including £1,652.50 on seven visits to the Michelin-starred James Sommerin Restaurant in Penarth, South Wales, where a six course taster menu costs £70, or £110 with wine.

The figures which are released on the Welsh Government website have been analysed by the Welsh Conservatives, who described the spending as "out of control".

Purchases include £1,876.65 with Metropolitan Limousine, a Chicago car hire company, in September last year, the same month as first minister Carwyn Jones visited the US city to discuss trade.

Also in September, £3,204.32 was spent on accommodation at the four-star luxury Sofitel Chicago hotel which boasts "stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline" from its 32-floor glass building, according to its website.

In July last year it emerged that £7.5 million had been spent on the authority's cards, known officially as procurement cards, in the five years from 2011 including £103.91 at lingerie store Victoria's Secret.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said then that that amount had been repaid after an investigation found it to be fraudulent but the other purchases were "in line with Welsh Government business objectives".

Purchases in 2016/17 included £460 for fixtures and fittings from Ikea, £698 to the Quilting Bee, a Conwy-based store, which describes itself on Facebook as having "a wide choice of haberdashery and quilting notions".

Meanwhile £1,001 was spent on four dates at Zip World Limited, the company that runs three zip line and adventure sites in North Wales.

The bill for Welsh Government credit cards is out of control, with staff spending more and more each year.

The public needs to have confidence that the system isn't being abused, and the raft of flamboyant transactions undertaken by civil servants will have eyes rolling.

– Nick Ramsay, Shadow Finance Secretary

The cards were used by civil servants for official business reasons.

The issue of procurement cards is tightly controlled and there are strict rules in place to ensure every transaction is logged and accounted for. In addition, all transactions must be separately approved by a senior official.

Procurement card usage is published on our website every month in order to be open and fully transparent.

– Spokesperson for the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government