Head of government's spending watchdog dines out in style at the taxpayer's expense

Sir John Bourn, head of the government spending watchdog, has notched up nearly £27,000 of expenses on meals at some of London's top restaurants during the past three years, figures on Thursday showed.

The comptroller and auditor general at the National Audit Office also billed the organisation about £350,000 for business trips abroad for the same period, frequently accompanied by his wife.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, have sparked an outcry.

Conservative MP Lee Scott, said: "I find it verging on the ridiculous, the level of hospitality taken at the taxpayers' expense when he is the guardian of the taxpayers' money."

Bourn, whose job it is to report to parliament on waste and extravagance in central government spending, dined out up to nine times a month in the three years since 2004. He most frequently went to the Savoy, Wiltons, The Square, the Ritz, Aurora and the Goring, though the Dorchester and the Connaught were also popular. His cheapest meal was a £33 breakfast for two at the Chesterfield, while his most expensive was dinner for four at Wiltons, at a cost of £500 - three of the guests were from the NAO. He also spent £301 on a meal for two at the Ritz.

Spending watchdog's 27,000-pound restaurant bill (Reuters, 11 October 2007)