Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith (Reuters)

The UK's Department for Work and Pensions has been attacked for spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on promoting its Twitter feed, after losing £3.5 billion last year to fraud and errors.

As part of the deal, the ministry's @DWP account will appear under the "who to follow" section on a user's Twitter homepage, the Sun reports.

The news follows revelations that Duncan Smith has spent £74,000 on media training for Lord Freud, responsible for pushing his controversial benefits reform programme through the House of Lords, and 236 other DWP staff since coming to office in 2010.

Recently Simon Barrow, co-director of think tank Ekklesia, blogged: "the DWP -- bound by civil service standards of honesty, integrity and impartiality, remember -- appears ever keen to tweet and press release the coalition line on benefits, while often being too busy to respond to criticisms or enquiries about the propriety and accuracy of its claims."

The Taxpayers' Alliance criticised the spending as wasteful.
"The DWP should focus its budget on getting people off benefits, not racking up Twitter followers," said a spokesman.

Earlier this week, a mock Twitter feed lambasting DWP policy was allowed to re-open, after Twitter closed it down following complaints from the ministry.

The creators of the account, @UKJobCentrePlus not, argued that by closing the account down, Twitter was attempting to silence criticism of the UK government.

In January, it was revealed that the DWP had lost £1.2bn as the result of fraud, £1.6bn because of errors by benefits claimants and £800 million by officials paying out too much, despite Prime Minister David Cameron's pledge of an "uncompromising crackdown" on fraud and error at the department.

The DWP claims that the expenditure was necessary as part of a campaign to promote workplace pension enrollment.

"We have a duty to tell people about pension changes which have already seen 2.87 million people enrolled into a workplace pension. We do this in a variety of ways ensuring value for money for the taxpayer," said a spokesman.