Big Four among most frequent providers of hospitality to senior civil servants

GOVERNMENT officials accepted 7,980 forms of hospitality last year, with Big Four firms among the most frequent providers of hospitality to senior civil servants, a National Audit Office report has found.

The NAO report, which recommends that rules on gifts and hospitality should be made more stringent after uncovering multiple weaknesses in controls within government, found that PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY were all in the top ten most frequent providers of gifts and hospitality to senior officials.

According to the NAO, HMRC, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) department accepted a total of over £150,000 of gifts and hospitality in 2014-15.

PwC, the second largest provider of hospitality to civil servants and a major supplier to government, offered 31 lunches and 32 dinners to senior officials in 16 departments.

HMRC workers accepted 400 offers of hospitality, while BIS officials accepted hospitality from some 580 organisations, while DE&S workers accepted offers from 600 companies. The report also suggests that there may be a potential conflict of interest after senior officials accepted hospitality from companies that have some involvement with government.

DE&S officials accepted the most lunches last year, and accepted 11,600 lunches over the past three years. Nearly half of them were recorded as a ‘working lunch’.

“While most, but not all, of the cases declared by officials appear on the face of it to be justifiable in the normal course of business, we have found some weaknesses in the oversight and control of gifts and hospitality that need to be addressed by the Cabinet Office and by department,” said the report.

“Frequent acceptance of hospitality from particular organisations is not necessarily wrong, but it does need to be in proportion to the business relationship.”

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