Government departments spent more than £5bn over the amount budgeted by Parliament for last year, according to a report by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA).
The biggest overspend was at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), where £6m was spent on ear plugs found to be not fit for purpose.
The MoD also spent £7.2m on mobile mine-detection capability for Warrior vehicles that was deemed unsuitable and wasted £4m by the early withdrawal from service of Sea King helicopters, the report says.
It also highlights a £1.2m loss in the Department for Education because of a payment by a school into the wrong bank account.
The Home Office also spent more than £1.7m on flights that were cancelled without the possibility of a refund, and the Department for Work and Pensions wasted more than £420m in overpayments on benefits.
Andy Silvester, campaign director at the TPA, told Sky News: “People will be angry that this is money that could have been spent on schools, on hospitals, on the essential services we constantly hear are under threat because of the size of the deficit we are running.
“Ultimately, we’ve got an election coming up and all the parties are promising to balance the books.”
Making Whitehall more efficient has to be part of that drive, he said.
Mr Silvester admitted that not all the costs were unnecessary or wasteful.
The money includes £50m spent on funerals for the poorest families and £12m on vaccines that are out of date.
But the TPA still thinks these costs could be budgeted for, or reduced with better planning.
Louise Cooper, a financial analyst, added that it was a problem that no party had fully grappled with – and said partnerships with the private sector had not provided the solution.
A Government spokesperson said: “Like any business, government departments will always have write-downs for things like unused stock, and as the report recognises, some of these figures are outside the control of the public sector.
“However, this government has clamped down on wasteful spending and last year saved £14.3bn for the taxpayer.”