UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is reportedly to reprimand UK government departments over their handling of spending projects worth tens of millions of pounds, reports The Telegraph.
"Certain parts of Whitehall", claim sources cited by the outlet, are perceived by the minister as failing to offer sufficiently detailed spending proposals, leaving Sunak "increasingly irritated" ahead of a looming government-wide spending review in the autumn.
Sunak is cited as being displeased with a number of spending projects overseen by Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock.
He is expected to write to Cabinet ministers to urge them to adopt a "higher standard" in their management of schemes as the country emerges from the COVID-19 epidemic.
It is also reported that the Treasury will conduct an audit of each department's finances, with ministers in future required to scrutinise their spending requests closely before submitting them to the Treasury.
From now on, bids for spending schemes will reportedly require all relevant information on how the money would be spent.
The Laptop Fail
Gavin Williamson came in for criticism after procrastinating on a roll-out of a £100 million project unveiled on 19 April, to deliver laptops to disadvantaged children at their homes amid closed schools due to lockdowns imposed over the epidemic.
At the time, Williamson was quoted as saying:
"Schools will remain closed until the scientific advice changes, which is why we need to support the incredible work teachers are already doing to ensure children continue to receive the education they deserve and need."
Many of the pupils, however, have still not received them. The Department of Education allegedly privately indicated the project would be completed fully by the end of May.
Addressing the Commons on 9 June, Williamson said:
"Some 100,000 of those laptops have already been distributed to the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged children. We took the decision to ensure that children who have social workers are prioritised over and above schools.”
Defunct Tracing App Project
Matt Hancock’s Department of Health was lambasted for spending around £11 million on the National Health Service’s (NHS) now abandoned project for a contact tracing app, touted as "crucial" for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.
After spending three months and millions of pounds on the technology, the government was forced to give up the project.
Officials acknowledged on 18 June that the NHS tracing app only recognised 4 per cent of Apple phones and 75 per cent of Google Android devices during testing on the Isle of Wight.
Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google.
The government was unable to state when the technology would be ready.