Stricter rules must be introduced to stop Government credit cards being open to abuse by civil servants, MPs have warned.
A one-off Cabinet Office investigation found 99 cases of "inappropriate use" of the cards in Whitehall over the past three years, according to the Public Accounts Committee. MPs found rules over use varied significantly between departments and highlighted the Department for Work and Pensions, which "doesn't even have receipts for a third of its transactions".
The committee called for a clampdown on who can use the Government Procurement Cards (GPCs) and for what. It recommended there should be fewer bookings made for five star hotels and a ban on alcohol purchases.
Previously released details of spending on the 24,000 procurement cards showed they had been used to buy doughnuts and shop at iTunes, as well as for air tickets and luxury hotels.
Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: "The controls currently applied to the use of the Government Procurement Card by civil servants and other public employees are not strict enough to deter and prevent inappropriate use.
"The Ministry of Defence is by far the biggest spender, accounting for three-quarters of all expenditure using the cards, but checks only a sample of its transactions. We were told that this sample could be as small as 5%. The Department for Work and Pensions doesn't even have receipts for a third of its transactions using these cards."
The GPC system was introduced in 1997 to allow staff to make small purchases conveniently. MPs said the cards meant suppliers were paid more quickly but warned of the risks of inappropriate or fraudulent use. The MoD, which accounts for around three-quarters of total GPC expenditure, limits checks to only a sample of its transactions.
Cabinet Office guidance was introduced last November setting out a minimum standard across government. But MPs called for the policy to include 100% transaction checking, a ban on use of the card for certain items such as alcohol and restrictions to ensure cardholders are permanent staff members.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The MoD is one of the largest Government departments with over 250,000 individuals based all over the world. The vast majority of our items are necessary purchases by military personnel and civilians while on duty overseas.
"This means we need the speed and flexibility in procurement that the Government Procurement Card (GPC) provides. The GPC also cuts overhead costs and so provides good value for money for the taxpayer. The MoD frequently checks up to 100% of transactions, but it would be misleading to focus only on checks as all GPC spending is subject to other rigorous controls and we have a robust system to monitor and audit their use."