Last week, the Home Office found itself at the centre of scrutiny as a number of unusual expenses drew public attention. The department’s 2020 procurement card spending left many baffled as it became clear that extortionate payments had been made to questionable sources.
Byline Times shed light on the payments, questioning how appropriate its expenses were. Some of the most perplexing examples were the department spending approximately £77,000 at a beauty product firm named SP Beautiful Brows which, according to Companies House, was dissolved in July 2018. Similarly, over £5,000 was spent at Primark, and a further £900 at a pub in Oxford.
It didn’t take long before the expenses were interrogated across social media, with many questioning why these payments had been made and whether Home Secretary Priti Patel was abusing public money. Among the more lighthearted tweets joking that Patel had spent a fortune on her eyebrows and had indulged in a Primark spending spree, there were serious concerns raised regarding potential money laundering.
The department’s 2020 procurement card spending left many baffled as it became clear that extortionate payments had been made to questionable sources
Staff running the Home Office’s Twitter account soon jumped to the Home Secretary’s defence, posting a number of ‘fact checks’ which claimed that the £77,000 payment to SP Beautiful Brows was spent on PPE (personal protective equipment) and that the Primark expenses were a result of the Home Office buying clothing for asylum seekers who would not have had appropriate clothing when arriving to the UK.
Yet these claims fail to add up. If SP Beautiful Brows was dissolved in 2018, it remains unclear why and how the Home Office would source PPE from the firm. What’s more, an additional £649,361 was reportedly spent at an actual PPE company, which again casts doubt on a member of Home Office staff choosing to source PPE from a dissolved beauty product firm in the first place.
And when it comes to the Home Office’s defence of its Primark expenses, a number of charities and organisations which support asylum seekers have challenged its claims. In its ‘fact checking’ tweets, the Home Office stated that the £5,000 of public money spent at Primark was in order to provide clothing to those seeking asylum in the UK.
Yet previous employees of refugee charities have argued that they have never known an asylum seeker to receive clothing from the Home Office, instead having to rely on charities and donations from volunteers.
Hassan Akkad – who has documented his struggles with the UK’s hostile asylum system – insisted that he received clothes donated by a local community during his process of seeking asylum, and that the Home Office barely managed to provide the £5 per day financial support he was entitled to.
It seems illogical that a department which appears hell-bent on evading responsibility for asylum seekers would happily spend £5,000 sourcing suitable clothing for them.
Previous employees of refugee charities have argued that they have never known an asylum seeker to receive clothing from the Home Office, instead having to rely on charities and donations from volunteers
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been called upon to launch an inquiry into the department’s spending.