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How UK Gov spent Ј80bn... on diamond dog collars

Britain's ruling coalition has published online details of all central Government spending over Ј25,000 made since the election.

The figures cover a total of Ј80 billion spent between May and September of this year, and include all payments of more than Ј25,000 - although some departments have provided details of all amounts over Ј500.

The move is part of the Government's "transparency agenda" - but critics have slammed the publication, saying that the numbers are meaningless without context.

The coalition, which in August announced the scrapping of independent public spending watchdog the Audit Commission as part of its cull of 'quangos', claims it is opening its books up to what BBC home editor Mark Easton called "an army of armchair auditors".

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude told reporters: "When you open up the books, let people start to do some auditing of their own, I think there will be a great deal of pressure on government to use money, other people's money, much more carefully and be prepared to answer questions more."

But with the financial information running to more than 195,000 lines, the public and government opponents has been left to pick through a vast haystack of data to sift for irregularities with which to needle the coalition.

Needless to say, the hunt is on. And a few pricks have already been delivered.

One recipient of public funds was Prince Charles, who was handed a cheque for Ј667,000 by the Ministry of Justice in rent for Dartmoor prison, which is on his land. The Army paid him another Ј677,000 for access to Dartmoor.

And the Department of Energy and Climate Change appears to have been doing its bit for CO2 emissions, spending Ј123,000 with the government's car service.

Among the more bizarre payments listed is Ј1,000 given the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to a company that sells jewel-encrusted dog collars.

A number of controversial payments that initially appeared in the figures were quickly redacted. These included a total of Ј2.2 million paid by the Ministry of Justice to eight people in compensation for miscarriages of justice - including two businessmen caught up in the Arms to Iraq scandal in the 1990s.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the data had been removed for data protection reasons.

The biggest private-sector recipient of public money was the outsourcing firm Capita, with payments totalling a massive Ј3.3 billion. IT giant Hewlett Packard has received around Ј285 million since the election.

The UK's Guardian newspaper has provided a handy application for searching the full data here.

Tags: francis maude, department of energy and climate change, audit commission