The Ministry of Defence spent £205 million ($260 million) on trips, including hotels, meals and transport fees, in 2019, The Mirror revealed. At the same time, the Ministry of Defence is said to risk facing a £1.2 billion black hole by 2022.
The British outlet points out that the spending list includes a $6,200 six-night stay in a Dubai hotel for one of the ministry chiefs, booking 38 rooms, $380 per night each, in the Emirates as well as paying $2,800 for three nights on Cyprus for a ministry worker and guest.
The media outlet not only points out expenses for foreign trips but also expenditures at home, namely a $635 one-night stay in the British city of Birmingham, an almost $12,000 bill for 22 nights at London’s five-star Royal Horseguards Hotel as well as thousands of dollars’ worth of bookings in Oxford and Glasgow.
The trips to Commonwealth countries were pricey as well, as aides reportedly spent $13,000 on a month in Sydney’s five-star apartments and over $1,000 for a three-night stay in Ottawa, Canada. The list of hotel bills also includes $1,000 for a 2-night-stay in Manhattan and equally expensive booking in the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Commenting on the report, the ministry noted that only “the most cost-effective solutions” are approved.
“We expect staff to act responsibly when incurring expenses and continue to make significant savings in travel costs”, MoD stated, according to The Mirror.
The outlet also pointed out that the ministry’s civil servants received bonuses equivalent to $20 million last year. The highest paid civil servant turned out to be chief executive of the Defence Equipment and Supply Agency Sir Simon Bollom with $380,000 per year. Besides this, 81 senior civil servants received more than $760,000 in bonuses.
“We want the best people to lead the organisation and therefore benchmark remuneration packages against similar roles in the private sector, ensuring salaries are competitive for such specialised jobs”, the MoD spokesperson noted.
At the same time, The Mirror points to wage freezes for ordinary troops during years of defence cuts while the Armed Forces are understaffed by almost 10,000 people. It cites former commander of British troops in Afghanistan Col Richard Kemp, as saying “Troops have seen salaries frozen, allowances and benefits eroded”, and criticising the bonus system.
“To see the extent of these civil service bonuses – some beyond the wildest dreams of those who risk their lives for their country – will make them again question how much the Government values their own service”, he told the media.
Veteran’s organisations have also branded the spending revelations a “betrayal” and called to regulate the issue.
“It’s a betrayal. This could be spent on PTSD. For £800 I could take a veteran for a three-week expedition where we could get to the root of his problems”, the founder of Veterans in Action, Billy MacLeod said.
The Veterans Association UK’s Tony Hayes told the media that such spending “should be legally wrong”.
“Troops are under-equipped and under-resourced while veterans are left on the heap, their benefits cut”, he noted.