Monday 16 July 2012

HMRC's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

My thanks to several loyal readers who pointed me to a very interesting article in yesterday's Herald, concerning the abysmally poor levels of staff moral in HMRC.

As loyal readers are well aware (especially those of you who work within HMRC), staff morale is pretty well at rock bottom; staff surveys have not only scored HMRC as appalling but the participation rates have fallen:
"HMRC response rate to the the 2011 People Survey is a whopping 52%..... a full 17% down on last year."
The problems became so acute that HMRC hired a consultant, Nita Clarke, last year to produce a report on internal "people engagement".

Step forward the Sunday Herald, which has obtained a copy of the report.

On the relationship between HMRC and its staff, the report was blunt:
"At the heart of the engagement challenge in HMRC is a disconnect between employees and the overall organisation. 

Many employees feel that the organisation as a whole neither values, listens to, nor respects them."
This should come as no surprise to the loyal readers of this site, as this point has been made time and time again by myself and many loyal readers who work at the "coalface".

Sadly, those of you hoping for an improvement will be sorely disappointed, the report states that there were "no grounds for suggesting that a transformation in engagement levels is imminent".

The report also noted (again something that has been said many times before on this site) that staff felt they were unable to speak out internally about issues in HMRC:
"Many of these problems were felt to emanate from behaviour at the top of the organisation. 

ExCom [HMRC's executive committee] members were perceived to behave on occasion in a competitive, non-collegiate way."

It occurs to me that HMRC could have saved the taxpayers the expense of hiring a consultant, by simply reading what is said on this site on a day to day basis by their own members of staff!

The report quite correctly recognises that part of the process of rebuilding trust had to include leaders "acknowledging and accepting responsibility for things that have gone wrong".

Despite this, Clarke appears to be upbeat and claims that she had "every confidence" that HMRC would "embed a new culture based on trust and empowerment".

A spokesman for HMRC said:
"We were disappointed with the results of last year's staff survey and invited Nita Clarke to work with staff and unions to chart a way forward - There have been changes and we are determined to make further improvements."
Hmm, I think a more realistic assessment of the challenge faced by HMRC has been expressed by an unnamed senior figure at HMRC who said that the problems at HMRC were so severe that they required a process of "truth and reconciliation".

This was an open and honest assessment in my view, kudos to whoever said it.

In theory a "truth and reconciliation" process, akin to the one performed some years ago in South Africa, could work.

However, South Africa's truth and reconciliation process worked because people respected and trusted the leadership of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues, and had a genuine desire to forge a new and enlightened future under his leadership.

Can the same be said of people's feelings towards Homer and her fellow Excoms?

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. See:-

    Watch, listen & laugh.
    This will appeal to your sense of humour Ken.
    It is sure to raise a smile on the face of the downtrodden.

  2. Truly superb. The tragedy is that it's only too accurate.