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.

Monday, 8 February 2010

You Need Friends

Private Eye have an interesting report about the manager of HMRC's East Kilbride call centre (Robert Bowering).

Seemingly, before being appointed in June 2009, he had been made bankrupt (to the tune of £75K) by...errmmm...HMRC!

Sadly for HMRC it has been deemed unlikely that they will ever recover one penny of this.

How did he get his job (paid at higher than the normal rate) then?

Easy, he is friends with HMRC's director of contact centres, Linda Maslen. They were even linked on Faecesbook, until the Eye started looking into it!

Impressive isn't it?

Have no fear though, HMRC told the Eye that "correct procedures had been followed".

It saddens me to see that there are a number of people attracted to working for the state, and its many organs, who like to hide behind "procedures" when anything goes wrong.

These people are effectively brain dead, and are incapable of intuitive/creative thought or acting with initiative outwith a set of rigid written procedures. Their primary function is to ensure that when the shit hits the fan they can claim that they followed procedures, thus ensuring they are not blamed.

Here is some free advice to these people:

1 Procedures cannot cover every eventuality.

2 In the unlikely event that procedures could ever cover every eventuality, the outcome resulting from rigidly following those procedures may still well be sub optimal.

Certain circumstances require people and organisations to look outside a rigid procedural framework and ask certain basic questions, eg "if we take this action how will it look to others (eg taxpayers) outside of our organisation?".

Clearly HMRC did not ask themselves this question.

Here is the full article, unedited:

"AS IF a National Audit Office report last month detailing 44 million missed telephone calls last year (47 percent of those made) didn't pose enough questions over HM Revenue & Customs' 'contact centres', the Eye has discovered some very unusual arrangements for choosing the people to run them.

HMRC's first call centre, and still one of its largest, is in East Kilbride, just outside Glasgow. Since June last year it has been managed by a certain Robert Bowering, a call centre veteran with firms including HSBC and call centre outsourcing firm beCogent Ltd. But his appointment at HMRC was far from his first encounter with the taxman.

At Linlithgow sheriff court in March, just three months before he started working at HMRC, Bowering had been made bankrupt… by HMRC!

Bowering's debt, the origins of which are not known, stands at £75,545, of which the Accountant in Bankruptcy (Scotland's insolvency service) officially estimates it will recover, er, precisely £0. So how did a man made bankrupt over unpaid tax land a job advising everybody else on their tax bills?

Mr Bowering was brought in - on higher pay than the normal level for his grade - by a personal friend of his: the department's director of contact centres, Linda Maslen. Until the Eye became interested, the two could be found as each other's 'friend' on their Facebook pages. They had worked at HSBC's firstdirect telephone banking business at the same time in the 1990s.

HMRC insists that, although Maslen had 'advocated' her chum's appointment, the correct procedures had then been followed taking into account 'the risks posed by appointing someone who is insolvent, and the organisation's ability to manage those risks'.

So that's all right, then.

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. This is incredible. Imagine working at that Centre and having to take shit from that guy? Is this just gonna be ignored? This should be front page on the big papers.
    I'm off for a pint, and toasting it to you Ken and Private Eye.

  2. Imagine working at that Centre and having to take shit from that guy?
    I would recommend you try not to imagine it. I would imagine it is not much fun dealing with it in any call center.

    Is this just gonna be ignored?
    Of course, the only people who could possible be embarrassed by this are the same people who gave him the job.

    I'm off for a pint
    10:30 in the morning, is that the HMRC effect?

  3. Strangely enough it was the tax office in East Kilbride that had managers secretly videoing staff visiting the bog - have a look at the PCS website and their archive of union magazines and see for yourself.

    Some farking please is East Kilbride then!!!

  4. That's the East Kilbride call centre for you. Cutting edge of employer/employee relationship style.

  5. What kind of gangster outfit is this? At least Arthur Daley what was a likeable bloke!

  6. Just shows how bad things really are. Mr Bowering was one of nearly a dozen Call Centre Managers brought in from outside the Revenue because they could not find anyone that good within the organisation.( I know Reveue and Organisation in the same sentence is an oxymoron).

  7. I guess the bankruptcy part of this story is just a bit ironic.

    The real issue here is the fact that he apparently got a better pay deal than others in the same grade. I suppose this was either because he had a background in the call centre world or his mate got him a better deal.

    The problem is that even with all his experience things appear to be getting worse within the call centre world of HMRC. The recent staff survey and capability review show a general problem throughout HMRC and East Kilbride is no exception.

    So the question is “is he worth the extra money?”

  8. "is he worth the money" is a great shout. I don't see how he posssibly can be as these days almost no decisions regarding the running of the contact centre are taken at a local lever.