Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne (pictured) has said expenses claimed in the past by the organisation are “no longer acceptable”.
Carne said he had “clamped down” in response to an article in the The Sunday Times that showed between April 2012 and October 2015 a total of £19m was spent through procurement cards.
Data from a Freedom of Information Act request revealed £20,000 was spent on Marks & Spencer hampers, £1,600 on flowers and £35 on doughnuts for a birthday present. Some 135 dinners and lunches costing £26,770 were bought on the cards, along with hotel stays abroad and £1,700 worth of books from Amazon. More than £50 was spent on train-shaped confetti and chocolates to decorate a table at a rail conference.
Carne said: “The expenses this organisation has claimed for in the past are no longer acceptable. I've clamped down, changed and tightened the rules. No more hampers, no more birthday gifts, no more expensive meals or hotels. We're now a public company delivering a vital public service with taxpayers' money and we have to make that money go as far as we possibly can.”
Network Rail said less than 5% of employees had a procurement card and they were “predominantly used by frontline staff to give them the flexibility they need to buy parts, equipment and building materials at short notice, enabling them to keep the railway running smoothly, and this makes up the bulk of items purchased”.
“The general use of purchasing cards delivers savings and improves efficiency through a cashback arrangement of tens of thousands of pounds and cuts out needless bureaucracy such as issuing invoices for numerous, small value items – such as a bag of sand,” said the organisation.