HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Dangers of Dissent - HMRC Harassment

The Guardian reports that Osita Mba, a solicitor with HMRC who turned whistleblower on HMRC's deal with the giant vampire squid (Goldman Sachs), is facing disciplinary proceedings (possibly dismissal and prosecution) for telling the National Audit Office (NAO) and two parliamentary committees about his concerns over the deal.

Mr Mba has worked for HMRC for four years, and apparently has knowledge of the vampire squid deal.
Mr Mba made the disclosure to the NAO and parliament under whistleblowing legislation which, theoretically, is meant to protect whistleblowers from prosecution etc.

It seems that HMRC think otherwise, and have launched an inquiry into Mr Mba's conduct. He has been barred from entering his office at Westminster unless he has a personal escort from his line manager, and has been summoned to a meeting.

MPs are less than impressed with HMRC's treatment of Mr Mba. Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, said:

"Whistleblowers play such an important role that the previous government brought in legislation to protect them.

Mr Mba's evidence has been crucial in uncovering not just specific but systemic problems in HMRC's secretive relationship with big corporations.

This is harassment and is completely unacceptable."

Stephen Barclay, a Conservative MP on the committee, said:

 "We have already seen how whistleblowers from the health world have been stopped from disclosing information by their managers. It appears that a similar obstructive approach may now be being followed by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs.

The committee will be making further inquiries to establish the facts to ensure that the will of parliament is being followed."

HMRC are quoted:

"It is essential that we establish the full facts in order to decide what action to take.

To this end we are carrying out a preliminary leak inquiry following the disclosure, including on the Guardian website, of internal departmental documents which may constitute a serious breach of confidential information.

This is the first time we have had an opportunity to see the documents and we will give careful consideration to this material."

I will be interesting to see which organisation has more power in this particular case and ends up winning, HMRC or parliament. Sadly for Mr Mba, he will be stuck firmly in the middle as the two organisations fight for supremacy.

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  1. HMRC is on a quick sand on this one.

    Their interpretation of the law on confidentiality is rather curious. It is fundamental principle of our law that (in the words of Page Wood V-C in Gartside v Outram (1856) 26 LJ Ch 113 at 114) “a man cannot be made the confidant of a crime or a fraud.”

    And then there’s the little matter of Parliamentary privilege (which covers whistleblowing to Select Committees) over above the protection provided under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

  2. What should worry HMRC and indeed the Whitehall establishment the most is the fact that this whistleblower is a lawyer. It is an open secret that Whitehall's policy o whistleblowing does not cut the muster and I have heard from our lawyers in HMRC that the Department's (or to be blunt Jack's) view that taxpayer confidentiality covers everything is rather dodgy. It had always been assumed that nobody will challenge it so we carry on as if if you can't blow the whistle and Jack continues to mislead Parliament.
    This must be a worrying time for Jack. He can't afford to be seen to shoot the messenger when he is the one directly affected by the disclosure!

  3. Why did the PAC disclose the whistleblower's identity? I thought it is all meant to be confidential? Surely, they'll fight his corner. I can't wait to see the report of their investigation. I gather it will be out before Christmas. Will they call for Jack to hang his boots?

  4. I have never heard of whistleblowing in the Revenue. Anonymous leaks, yes but to put one's head above the parapet, this is exceptional. There must be more to this than meets the eye.

  5. Interesting times at HMRC. I wouldn't want to be in Jack's shoes!

  6. It was only this week that an HMRC spokeswoman said:

    "A spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs said she was aware of Dissent: ‘HMRC is proud to be an open organisation which welcomes and encourages the views of all our staff.
    ‘Anonymous and unconstructive letters are therefore completely unnecessary and irrelevant. We have well defined procedures for staff to report any genuine grievances"

    I pointed out on this site that this was an amazing statement since it clearly suggests that HMRC will ignore any allegation, no matter how serious, if it is anonymous. To follow this up with a vindictive approach to someone who is named doubles the insult. They really are beyond parody as an organisation. And to those who say this is some sort of plot - believe me those at the top are too thick to do anything so clever.
    The end is near for many of them.

  7. Some of us do put our heads above the parapet eventually resulting in Industrial Tribunal cases where HMRC then accuse us of manufacturing a Constructive Dismissal case. Helps even more when they state in their final submission that had the person returned to work they envisaged that the person would have been sacked within six months of their return.

  8. He did it using ‘whistleblowing legislation’ just been reading a good factsheet on this and it seems to me he has done no wrong. I think he should be commended for having the balls to keep his integrity in the sleazy world of Hartnett, I bet there is more to come yet.

  9. Mr Mba should be given a top legal team to fight his defense. Historically HMRC don't have the stomach to fight big legal cases (you only have to see how many large companies seem to get away with it because of the large legal teams they can hire). The tide has got to turn, Hartnett retiring without a bye or leave on a nice fat pension is the final straw for me. I sincerely hope 'dissent' can weed more issues of incompitence and corruption out into the public domain and force the governemnt to get its head out of its arse and address this national embarrassment of a government department.