Since when is a jewellery purchase actually a clocking in machine?
The answer it seems is that its when the MOD uses GPC cards to purchase items. The MOD has finally come out and updated its press report coverage and confirmed that the expenditure on various sundry items which caused various tabloid authors mass outrage the other day is actually nothing of the sort.
As suspected by the author, the bills that were being assessed were in fact GPC card bills. The GPC is a brilliant invention - its easy to use, very easy to audit, and more importantly massively reduces staff time and hassle for authorising expenses claims. The one weakness in the system though is that when used, the audit reports are based on what the vendor classifies their merchant type trade as. In this case, the so called MOD jewellery spend was actually with a very specialised clock merchant, who received an annual support contract for a clocking in machine.
So, the reality of it is that the MOD CS hasn't been swanning around the world having a super jolly at public expense. Also, this incident shows that the GPC is brilliant, but that its reports need to be issued with a large health warning that anyone can understand - namely that what the reported expenditure is, is not necessarily what the actual expenditure was.
You'd think that was an easy thing to understand - but clearly not! As the year progresses, the author expects articles of moral outrage to continue, as poorly informed journalists continue on their crusade to make out that the civil service is the devil incarnate. Every release of expenses, every FOI listing GPC expenditure will provide easy headlines which make the MOD look stupid and further depress peoples already low morale.
The author has two massive frustrations here. Firstly, the fact that having misled the public, it is highly unlikely that any paper will bother to print a clarification or correction. Indeed, its likely that the next time they need a cheap headline on this subject, the jewellery expenditure will be kicked up. If public servants were as willingly negligent as the press in reporting matters, we'd be fired. Instead, the press seem to sit back and print lies, and have the audacity to assume that they will never be questioned.
The second frustration is the fact that MOD press seem to do so little to fight the corner of the MOD. Instead of issuing a one paragraph update on a Monday, long after the story has blown out of the way, they should have got a senior officer in and on the airwaves to absolutely demolish this story. It feels at times like MOD PR is only interested in covering good news stories about HM Forces, and not standing up for civil servants. This author remembers when we were being attacked left right and centre over the bonuses, not a single senior officer was allowed to publicly defend the civil service. Its one thing accepting that the tabloids don't like you, but it would be nice if for once your own media team would try to be a little more assertive in stopping this sort of story.
While the author suspects that MOD media will claim that they can't possibly do this, he can't help but feel that if papers were told 'no more jollies to Afghanistan, no more exclusives, no more access to fun stuff that sells copy, until you report the truth and not your perverted version of events' then things would change. Editors want to sell papers - denying them access may seem harsh, but if they aren't prepared to report the truth, then why should we give them access in the first place?