Tag Archives: audit

Rishi Sunak lost more cash to fraud than Liz Truss wasted. Why’s HE a safe pair of hands?

The National Audit Office has published a report showing that, in the first year of the Covid-19 crisis, Rishi Sunak allowed up to £58.8 billion of public money to be given away to fraudsters.

And now he’s making absolutely no effort to get it back.

It’s more money than Liz Truss spaffed away when she trashed the economy last year.

And I have to wonder whether its the reason Tories always leave fraud off their figures when they talk about crime levels since 2010.

The big issue is the fact that the Tory government will claw back even the tiniest scrap of cash from the poorest people in society, like people on benefits who make mistakes in their claims because they don’t understand the system (see this article)…

… but they never try to claw back enormous wodges of it that have gone out to rich people. Is it because the beneficiaries are their own toff buddies?

The level of corruption that is implied here is monumental.

Think it through, and you may well come to the conclusion that everybody in a position of power is on the take, and they all fear taking action to shut down anybody else’s scam because it may lead to them being accused, starting a cascade that could topple the Establishment like a rotting house of cards collapsing into dust.

… Oh, you don’t think so?

Then when may we expect the first recovery, or prosecution?


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The vast majority of Windrush Scandal victims have yet to be compensated by a government that doesn’t care

The Empire Windrush brought many people to the UK to help rebuild the country after World War II. If it had still been in service a couple of years ago, the Tories would have been trying to use it to deport them all again.

This is scathing – and it comes from the National Audit Office, no less:

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Sink, Britain, Sink: The Tories had six years to fix the UK’s flood defences and failed

Builth Wells: This mid-Powys town stood at a relatively high altitude – and under a considerable amount of water in February 2020.

The Environment Agency will have to resort to pumps and temporary flood barriers to ensure thousands of homes are protected this winter, it has been revealed.

According to the National Audit Office,

the Government awarded the Environment Agency £120m extra funding to repair [last year’s] damage, but the Agency will only complete 80 per cent of the work before the end of this year.

This means

one in five damaged flood defences will not be repaired in time for this winter’s stormy weather.

Oh, I know. There’s been a huge crisis to do with a pandemic disease called Covid-19 since the last floods, and it has been taking all the cash that’s available and slowing down maintenance work such as this.

That would be a good excuse.

But the simple fact is that successive Tory governments have had more than six years to stop our homes from flooding and they simply couldn’t be bothered.

To them, it’s a waste of money to take preventative action – even though the cost of fixing the damage is, cumulatively, far more.

I explained the problem in This Site, waaaaaaay back in 2014 [boldings mine, at time of writing this]:

This is a result of bad planning – by water and sewerage companies that have failed to implement successful drainage schemes or to divert floodwater from rivers in order to prevent overflow, and by planning authorities that have allowed housing to be built in the wrong place.

We live in a country where management of the water supply went into private hands several decades ago. When that happened, it became impossible to have any kind of integrated plan to deal with the supply of water, droughts, floods and storage. Water supply became a commodity to be bought and sold by rich people according to the golden rules of capitalism: Invest the minimum; charge the maximum.

So reservoirs have been sold off to foreign water companies, meaning we have no adequate response to droughts. None have been built, meaning we have no adequate response to floods. Concerns about river flooding have been neglected. There has not been the investment in extraction and storage of floodwater that repeated incidents over the last few years have demanded.

The government is reducing its budget for handling these issues. Not only that, but it is delaying implementation of a new policy on drainage.

In short, there is no joined-up thinking.

There will be no joined-up thinking in the future, either – unless the situation is changed radically.

Meanwhile, the cost racked up by the damage is huge – in ruined farmland, in ruined homes and possessions, and blighted lives. And what about the risk of disease that floodwater brings with it? The NHS in England is ill-equipped to deal with any outbreaks, being seriously weakened by the government-sponsored incursions of private, cheap-and-simple health firms.

Something has to give beneath the weight of all this floodwater. Change is vital – from commercial competition to co-operation and co-ordination.

Privatisation of water has failed. It’s time to bring it back under public control.

Is anyone opposed?

It turns out that a majority were not. Reversing the privatisation of water and restoring a joined-up policy is supported by most of the UK’s voting population, according to polls.

In 2012, it was said that 71 per cent of voters wanted renationalisation. By 2018 this had risen to 83 per cent.

But millions of people voted Conservative at the ballot box so water has remained in private hands and the government has refused to stump up the cash to pay for what has become an annual – and therefore predictable – disaster.

The Environment Agency reckons it has a strategy to “build up the resilience of millions more homes and businesses” in the coming years.

What happens if the Tories strip away the funding for it?

Source: Damaged flood defences won’t be repaired in time for this winter’s storms

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Back to the maths class for DWP decision makers

When I was six, I told friends and family I did not want to go out with a girl because "she can't do her maths". What a pity the adults in the Coalition government don't know now what I knew as a child.

When I was six, I told friends and family I did not want to go out with a girl because “she can’t do her maths”. What a pity the adults in the Coalition government don’t know now what I knew as a child.

Iain Duncan Smith was right to weep when he visited Easterhouse, all those years ago – although he would not have known the reason.

It turns out there are probably drug dealers on that estate with a better grasp of mathematics than anybody in his Department for Work and Pensions – or, let’s be honest, the entire Coalition government.

This week it emerged that the National Audit Office has refused to sign off the DWP’s accounts – for the 25th year running. While this indicates that the problem is not limited to the Coalition, it should be noted that David Cameron’s crew has done nothing to rectify it.

The NAO has instead delivered a “qualified” audit opinion, in respect of fraud and error which is considered to be unacceptably high. It seems the department overpaid £3.5 billion or 2.1 per cent of total benefit expenditure due to fraud and error – and also underpaid £1.4 billion to claimants.

Of this, fraud remained static at £1.2 billion (the same as in 2011-12), while underpayments due to official error increased from £400 million to £500 million.

Official error has increased while fraud has not.

An interesting sidebar to this is the fact that fraud has not decreased either, despite all Mr Duncan Smith’s apparent efforts to hammer it. Next year’s accounts – due after April 2014, although your guess on the actual date is as good as anyone’s – should make interesting reading, as they should show the effect of the major regressions (not reforms) he introduced this year.

Further evidence of government incompetence with the figures came in a chart from Conservative Central HQ’s press office, flagged up by Jonathan Portes and the immeasurably cleverer people at NIESR (National Institute of Economic and Social Research).

The chart’s claim was that 28,500 households had been receiving more than £500 per week in benefits, despite containing people who could work but weren’t – until the £26,000 per year Benefit Cap was brought in and reduced it to nothing.

Mr Portes told us the chart was based on DWP statistics published last week that show that 28,500 households have had their benefit capped at £500 per week, “however, the interpretation – and the chart – is utterly wrong in every respect.

“It just is not the case that every one of those 28,500 households contains someone who “can work”.  As the DWP publication clearly states, the cap applies to households in receipt of key out of work benefits – including both those in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) and those on Income Support (IS).  For people in the WRAG, the position is quite clear. As the DWP itself puts it… they are ‘currently too ill or disabled to work’.

“DWP makes clear that there is no assumption that Income Support claimants ‘can work’, but quite the opposite. As a general rule, most people who ‘can work’ should be on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), not IS. In practice, most of those on IS are single mothers with young children, who are not expected to work.

“Overall, although we don’t have precise numbers from the DWP statistics, it seems quite likely that in fact less than half of the households affected by the cap contain ‘people who can work but aren’t’.”

Mr Portes went on to analyse the second assumption in the chart – that there are now no households receiving more than £500 per week in benefits that include “people who can work but aren’t” – and found it “just as wrong,” – because DWP guidance exempts households with anyone on DLA, PIP, Attendance Allowance, the support component of ESA or Industrial Injuries Benefits, and those receiving War Disablement Pension and equivalent payments from the Armed Forces Compensation Payments Scheme.

“Of course it’s perfectly possible for such households to contain ‘people who can work but aren’t’ – most obviously households with a child receiving DLA, but there are lots of other possible cases. Moreover, even this excludes couple households where one person is working but the other could work, but is not, who are also exempt. Given enough children and/or high enough housing costs, such households can receive more than £500 per week in benefits,” wrote Mr Portes.

“Again, we don’t know the exact numbers, but we are certainly talking about thousands of households, not zero.”

Only on Monday, Mr Duncan Smith assured the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee that he had warned CCHQ and Tory chairman Grant Shapps against such jiggery-pokery with his departmental stats: “I have had conversations with him and others about being careful to check with the department.”

So did the chart go out with his department’s full endorsement, in which case this is even more proof that the DWP can’t get its facts right – or did CCHQ ignore Mr Duncan Smith’s words and make its own mistake?

For this government, and Mr “In Deep Sh…ambles”, the result is the same.

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Bad government: Their idea of ‘wrong’ isn’t the same as yours!

Bad education; bad government: Another attempt at explaining the benefits system to Mark Hoban fails, despite using really BIG writing.

Bad education; bad government: Another attempt at explaining the benefits system to Mark Hoban fails, despite using really BIG writing.

This is the last article in the quartet about private organisations carrying out public duties – and the government ministers who employ them – focusing on what happens when things go wrong.

(This was delayed from yesterday because yr obdt svnt developed a splitting headache. It seems that a trip to the gym and a three-hour drive, taking a sick neighbour to get help, isn’t conducive to writing four articles in a day!)

It should be noted that, in some cases, the error is clear and a logical solution is enacted. For example, when G4S completely failed to carry out its security responsibilities at the London Olympics last year, the government cancelled the company’s contract and called in the Army to sort out the mess. This wasn’t a perfect solution as it meant leave was cancelled for many squaddies and officers, but it did at least allow the Olympics to go ahead with a reasonable amount of security.

On the other hand, we have the current situation with the DWP, Atos and the work capability assessment.

“DWP is to bring in additional providers to carry out assessments,” yesterday’s press release announced under the headline Hoban – taking action to improve the Work Capability Assessment.

The possibility that the Work Capability Assessment may be improved might fill the casual reader with joy, but the problem – for those of us in the know – is that Mark Hoban’s name is attached to it. This is a man who has admitted that he does not understand the benefit system. Why is he still being allowed to meddle with it?

Read down the release and it turns out that the government does indeed want to change the WCA – but not in any way that is meaningful to us. It seems that the paperwork accompanying decisions isn’t sufficiently robust for the Department for Work and Pensions. It seems likely Mr Hoban’s problem is that this might make it possible for more people to succeed in appeals against decisions.

The real problem is that the Work Capability Assessment regime is fatal for many thousands of people, of course. This government isn’t interested in that at all. It appears that Mr Hoban and his associates are happy to let the deaths continue – for them the main issue is that they don’t have to pay back any money to successful appellants.

The details are in the ‘more information’ section of the press release: “In April/May 2013 the DWP carried out an urgent audit of around 400 reports, following concerns raised from a previous smaller audit. This covered cases audited by Atos between October 2012 and March 2013.

“The quality of the reports produced by Atos following an assessment are graded A-C and the audit demonstrated that the number of C-grade reports was around 41 per cent between October 2012 and March 2013.”

Crucially: “A ‘C’ grade report does not mean the assessment was wrong, and the recommendation given in a ‘C’ grade report may well be correct, but, for example, their reasoning for reaching that recommendation may lack the level of detail demanded by the DWP.”

In other words, the reason provided for reaching a decision is unlikely to be strong enough to sway an appeal tribunal.

The press release says: “The Minister also announced that he has already directed Atos Healthcare to put in place a quality improvement plan following… an unacceptable reduction in the quality of written reports produced following assessments.

“Measures include retraining and re-evaluating all Atos healthcare professionals, with those not meeting the required standard continuing to have all of their work audited until they do, or have their approval to carry out assessments withdrawn by the department.”

We know from the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary last year that Atos assessors are ‘audited’ if they don’t meet their targets, which are to put around 12-13 per cent of claimants into the support group, marking around 70 per cent fit for work and putting the rest in the work-related activity group for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Could it be that the Atos employees have started to lose faith in the process? Maybe they’ve seen the death figures that are being kept from the general public and have started to question whether they are doing the right thing?

In that case, what would a government do, if it wanted to continue wheeling the disabled into the charnel house? Would it not take steps to weed out the dissenters and employ other organisations to carry on the work – until such time as they too develop a moral backbone?

“I am committed to ensuring the Work Capability Assessment process is as fair and accurate as possible, with the right checks and balances to ensure the right decision is reached,” Mr Hoban is quoted as saying. For him, of course, the right decisions involve putting claimants into the three categories, in roughly the proportions described above.

“Where our audits identify any drop in quality, we act decisively to ensure providers meet our exacting quality standards.” Note that he does not define these standards. Is he hoping you make a false assumption about what they may be?

“Since 2010 we have made considerable improvements to the system we inherited from the previous government.” Perverted an already-poor scheme to suit a more sinister purpose.

“However, it’s vital we continue to improve the service to claimants, which is why we are introducing new providers to increase capacity.” To claimants? But… claimants have had no input into this process. It was a government audit that led to these changes; claimants’ wishes are routinely ignored.

“The DWP has also engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide independent advice in relation to strengthening quality assurance processes across all its health and disability assessments.” Meaningless to those concerned for the safety of people being put through the process.

“Atos Healthcare have also brought in a third party to assess the quality of their audit and make recommendations for improvements.” Meaningless to those concerned for the safety of people being put through the process.

“The WCA process has a number of checks and balances built in to ensure the right decision is reached. These include:

  • “DWP Decision Makers making the final decision on claimants’ benefit entitlement. Decision Makers can – and do – reach different decisions to those recommended to them by the assessments when all the supporting information is taken into account.” The decision is changed in – what – less than 10 per cent of cases?
  • “Claimants who disagree with the outcome of their WCA can provide more medical evidence and ask the DWP to reconsider the decision.” The DWP can take as long as it wants reconsidering the decision, while the claimant’s benefits are suspended and they are left with no means of support.
  • “A claimant who disagrees with their decision can also appeal to an independent tribunal, and before any appeal the original decision is looked at again by another DWP Decision Maker.” Is this accurate? Is not more accurate to say the claimant can only appeal after going through the reconsideration process?

“This change in approach for contracting providers to carry out the assessments to be delivered on a regional basis is likely to be fully operational from summer 2014 and will provide extra capacity to help tackle waiting times,” the release continued.

Extra capacity – and in the run-up to the general election in 2015. Didn’t Hitler try to push more Jews into the gas chambers when he knew he was running out of time?