50-fold price difference on government Christmas trees

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
18 December 2013

A 50-fold difference in the unit price of Christmas trees bought by different government departments has been uncovered.

In 2012, the Department for Transport (DfT) spent £15 on a tree for display in its offices, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) bought two trees for £750 each.

The huge variance was revealed following a Freedom of Information Act request by software company Gatewit. The e-procurement provider sent FOI requests to all central government departments.

Three quarters of departments spent nothing on trees for display on department premises, while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spent the most, purchasing five trees for a total of £1,780.

Gatewit CEO Pedro Vaz Paulo said: “Regardless of the size of the trees and the extent to which they were decorated, there’s a clear lack of consistency when one government department is spending 50 times more than another.”

The Northern Ireland Office spent £139.99 on two trees, and two trees were bought by the Wales Office for £142.

The DfT would not say where it obtained its tree, but it was purchased with a government procurement card. A spokesman said: “We bought one Christmas tree for £15 and stored it for future use.”

The Cabinet Office said there was no central guidance on Christmas tree procurement. “We have no plans to produce cross-government guidance on Christmas tree procurement or on hanging festive decorations,” said a spokesman.

“It’s for individual departments to account for the money they have spent, but our work to tackle waste in Whitehall saved taxpayers £10 billion last year alone.”

Defra and the FCO did not respond to SM’s request for comment.

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