The Charity Commission has defended spending almost £40,000 on five-star hotels around the world, saying that staff are often accommodated in particular hotels for security reasons.
Details of the charity regulator’s spending on corporate credit cards, released to the Daily Mail under Freedom of Information Act, show that the commission spent more than £38,000 in less than two years at hotels.
The Mail said the majority of the costs were run up by a four-strong team that works for the commission’s International Programme, which advises other countries how to regulate charities effectively.
But a commission spokeswoman said in a statement that the International Programme carries out "important work with overseas governments, regulators and charitable sectors", including work to ensure that charitable funds are "not used to fund terrorism either against the UK or in other high-risk countries involved".
Funding for the International Programme did not come from commission core funding, she added: "Funders in the past have included the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Canadian government, to whom the commission is accountable for delivering both the project and the spending. Government spending rules apply. Much of this work involves overseas in-country visits. The venues for such work is not always the choice of the commission or are chosen after advice from the relevant British High Commission or Embassy and are chosen for security reasons."
The Mail said that during two days in January staff spent a total of £3,236.76 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the Qatari capital, Doha. In March 2012 staff paid £2,017.32 at the Safari Park hotel and casino in Nairobi, Kenya, where they were attending a UN meeting funded by the Foreign Office.
In May last year one staff member spent £430.75 on a room at the five-star Kempinski Nile hotel in Cairo. In September 2012, one member of the commission was at the five-star Hotel Borobudur in the Indonesia capital Jakarta, the Mail said. Staff have also stayed at the Sheraton in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
The documents also showed that staff claimed expenses to dine at restaurants such as the Cinnamon Club in London, where main courses can cost more than £30, and the Tabard Inn, an upmarket restaurant in Washington DC.