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The Home Office briefly believed it owned all the money in the UK, World, and presumably the rest of the galaxy, a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee has shown.

The report on the department’s accounts for 2004 to 2005 details a financial shambles at the department. The summary of the report unsurprisingly adds that one factor behind the fiasco were problems with its new accounting system.

It details one exchange at a Public Accounts Committee hearing where Richard Bacon MP dissed the department for submitting a paper which suggested its gross transactions were £26,527,108,436,994. OK, lets just round it up to £27 trillion.

Bacon helpfully pointed out that this was not just 2,000 times the department’s 2004-2005 expenditure, but one and a half times the GDP of the entire planet.

Of course, this was just a slip of the key, former Home Office mandarin Sir John Gieve explained to the incredulous Bacon. It was changed, Gieve continued, but it was “given as an illustration of the problems that we had” managing its accounts. Whitehall’s version of “spot the deliberate mistake” then.

The report notes that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s examination [of Home Office accounts] was severely limited because the Home Office had not maintained proper books and records which would have enabled it to disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Department.

Well, that’s what the report says. We think it’s entirely likely the department spent the lot on tea, paper clips, training away days, and that old favourite “sweeteners” to induce IT services companies to bid for a chunk of the public purse.

Gieve is now deputy governor of the Bank of England. Or is that the Cosmic Federation Treasury?®

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