Despite attempts by HMRC to try to portray last year's datagate fiasco as one of a small number of "one off" cock ups (a contradiction in terms of course), HMRC face claims that it was in "chaos" even before it lost 25 million personal records.
The Government recently confirmed that several hundred jobs were axed at the Washington office of HMRC (that's where the information was lost) since 2005, and 179 staff in the North-East have been dismissed in the past three years.
In order to make up for the shortfall in staff, HMRC have paid private postal contractors £226M to handle the organisation's mail since 2005.
On top of this, HMRC have hired consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers to review HMRC's data handling. However, the government will not tell anyone how much this consultation is costing the British taxpayer; seemingly they regard it as "commercially confidential".
How very inconvenient!
As the Chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, Matthew Elliott, succinctly put it a fortnight ago:
"HMRC has clearly been operating in a state of chaos, apparently staggering from one mistake to another.
Given this sorry tale of mismanagement, poor morale and shoddy data practices, it is no wonder that they ended up making such a disastrous error.
With such systemic failings, they were an accident waiting to happen. Taxpayers have a right to expect their money is spent competently and their information is protected – HMRC has failed on both counts."
Newcastle Central Labour MP Jim Cousins, is also not impressed with HMRC:
"The pressure from outsourcing to private contractors and to reduce the number of staff – and they are ahead of schedule in their job cuts – I think has produced a chaotic situation."
Hexham Conservative MP Peter Atkinson recently warned that the cost benefits of cutting jobs and outsourcing don't seem to have taken account of the security risks:
"I have no objection to outsourcing postal and courier services, but if they are going to have an outsourced service, they should at least make sure it is a secure service."
You pay peanuts, you get monkeys!
Tax does have to be taxing.
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