Treasury ministers appear to have breached government guidelines by not publishing details of their department’s spending for several months, and in some cases, more than two years.
Public records show that the Treasury Department is the worst department in Whitehall for publishing key data on what its officials are spending public funds on, despite its role of monitoring spending across government.
The gaps add to concerns about high levels of spending and low transparency at the Treasury, even during Rishi Sunak’s term as chancellor. Earlier this year it emerged that Sunak’s Treasury had spent £3,000 on photographs to hang on the apartment’s walls and £4,500 on rooms in Venice for a G20 meeting.
Fleur Anderson, the shadow paymaster general, wrote to John Glen, the Treasury’s chief secretary, to ask why the department hasn’t released its spending data for so long.
In his letter, he said: “The Treasury’s task is severely undermined when it fails to get its own house in order, and instead leaves itself exposed as the worst performing department when it comes to reporting the details of its own spending.”
A Treasury spokesperson said: “Internal staff changes have caused a delay in the release. We are committed to transparency and will publish all required data in due course.”
Under government guidelines set by the coalition and Conservative governments, ministers are required to publish details of much of departmental spending each month.
They include anything for which the department paid more than £25,000, anything for which civil servants paid more than £500 on a government expense card, and any staff and consultancy costs. David Cameron was the first to force departments to publish details of spending of more than £25,000, writing to department heads weeks after taking office advising them to adhere to the new rules.
Since then, however, departments have become less and less strict in adhering to those guidelines. The Treasury has not published what its officials have spent on government cards since December 2021. The last month it published large spending was January 2022. The latest personnel data published is from March 2022.
The lack of data makes the Treasury by far the least transparent department in Whitehall. All others have provided spending information for at least part of 2022 and many for the full year. They include the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department of International Trade, both of which have ceased to exist after the most recent reshuffle by the prime minister.
Anderson said: “It is an absolute farce that two departments that no longer exist are managing to keep their transparency publications more up to date than the Treasury.”