The £20,000 benefit bonus rewards for the metropolitan elite at the Department of Work and Pensions

neil couling

Neil Couling – £145,000 a year

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Last week I had a story in the Sunday Mirror about top bonuses and pay rises for five of the most senior  and well paid civil servants at the Department of Work and Pensions over the last two years.

The information was published in the annual report and accounts  of the DWP released last month. These same accounts were qualified for the 29th year  running according to the the National Audit Office – because of fraud and error in payouts to claimants rendered them inaccurate and wrong.

 

 

Sir Robert Devereux pic credit Twitter

Sir Robert Devereux – £190,000 a year Pic credit : Twitter

The bonuses announcement came at the same time as 31 Labour MPs had called for a pause in the roll out of the ministry’s new Universal Credit  programme – which replaces five benefits – because of reported chaos in its administration leaving some claimants without money for up to six weeks. One of those 31 MPs, Kevan Jones, who represents Durham North said the bonuses were a ” reward for failure”.

He described them as “an insult to many of my constituents who are already living on the breadline. In my constituency they plan to introduce this in November which could leave thousands of people without money in the run up to Christmas.”

mayank-prakash_square

Mayank Prakash £220,000 a year including £20,00 bonus Pic credit: DWP Digital

Within days of the publication of the story the FDA ( the First Division Association) which represents the top civil servants attacked the article in a report in Civil Service World.

Jawad Raza, FDA national officer for DWP, said officials should not be used as targets by political opponents of the system simply for doing their jobs.

“The suggestion that these civil servants have been ‘rewarded for failure’ shows a blatant disregard for the facts regarding their pay and

Jeremy Moore pic credit

jeremy moore – £135,000 plus £20,000 bonus

wilfully misrepresents the true complexity of their roles,” he said.

“Senior civil servants have delivered billions of pounds worth of savings since 2010 with an ever reducing workforce. These are highly skilled professionals working in challenging circumstances and they deserve to be adequately remunerated without having their names and faces spread across news pages.”

Sorry Jawad I think there is more to this.

The five civil servants are Sir Robert Devereux, permanent secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions; Neil

WAxtX_a1

Andrew Rhodes – £140,000 a year plus £15,000 bonus

Couling, director general of universal credit; Jeremy Moore, director of strategy; Mayank Prakash, director general of digital technology and Andrew Rhodes, director of operations have received between £10,000 and £20,000 each .They are nearly all paid more than Theresa May, the PM.

The bonuses were awarded for “ top performance “ and “ leadership “when the rest of Whitehall is limited to one per cent pay rises and many benefits have been frozen.

Sir Robert last year received up to £20,000 extra on a salary of up to £185,000 a year. This year he hasn’t received any bonus but his basic salary has moved to £190,000 a year.

Neil Couling, who is directly responsible for universal credit, got a bonus of up to £20,000 last year on a salary of £125,000 a year. This year instead of a bonus his salary has jumped by £20,000 to £145,000 a year.

Mayank Prakash, director of digital strategy has received a bonus of up to £20,000  this yearon top of salary of £200,000 taking his annual salary to £220,000 .

Jeremy Moore, director of strategy, has received bonuses two years running –  totalling up to £40,000 over the two years – taking his total salary to £155,000 a year.

Andrew Rhodes, director of operations has received a £10-15,000 bonus this year, taking his salary to £155,000 a year. He also claimed £37,600 in travel expenses.

The ministry insist that all these pay rises were decided objectively by line managers.

In a statement it said:

Line managers are required to make an evidence-based and objective assessment over whether objectives have been met, not met or exceeded. 

 Individual performance is assessed by the individual’s line manager through an appraisal discussion, with supporting evidence from a range of stakeholders.

But apart from Sir Robert – whose bonus was decided by Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary – the Department declined to say who these line managers are and which outside organisations and people recommended they should get bonuses. The bad news for the DWP is that Kevan Jones plans to table a Parliamentary Question next month to find out who.

Now the FDA has a point that compared to the top of the  private sector they are badly paid. A report put out by the House of Commons library revealed that the top 3000 bankers are ALL earning over £884,000 a year – which makes £20,000 sound small beer. But if anything that reflects that huge growth of inequality in Britain.

At other end of society how effective are these five top men ( note they are all men) in delivering what they are supposed to do. All are responsible in one way or another for the delivery of Universal Credit.

At present they are using Newcastle-upon-Tyne – to roll out the full effect of Universial Credit.

Catherine McKinnell , Labour MP for Newcastle North, said:“ My office has been deluged with complaints from constituents about a Universal Credit system that is clearly struggling to cope and failing to deliver the support that claimants need in anything like an orderly or timely fashion.”

Her debate can be read here.  Suffice to say it reveals a very sorry picture. The  new IT system means people can’t talk to a human. It has  a verification process that requires claimants to produce photographic identification such as a passport or driving licence, “which many simply do not possess and certainly cannot afford, even though some have been in receipt of benefits for several years.”

“I also have numerous examples of Universal Credit claims being shut down before they should be; of documentation being provided to the DWP, at the constituent’s cost, and repeatedly being lost or even destroyed; and of totally conflicting, often incorrect, information being provided to constituents about their claims.”

For a time the ministry effectively banned MPs from taking up cases by making impossible verification demands before they would talk about it.

What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.

It was this disconnect between the elite and the poor  in the USA that led to the rise of Donald Trump and I suspect this huge gulf between the Metropolitan elite – whom top Whitehall civil servants are part – and the provincial poor is in the end going to propel Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.

 

The £5 billion pay out to people who shouldn’t have received it

DWP-Department-for-work-and-pensions-500x320

Department for Work and Pensions – £3.5 billion of overpayments detected by auditors

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

Here is a strange paradox. The government has imposed a tough and to many people unfair benefits and  tax credits regime which has squeezed the poorest – both the unemployed and those in work.

Yet this summer accountants have revealed that HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions has paid out £5 billion to people on benefits and low incomes who should not have received it. And they predict that even more will receive these payments next year. I have written about this in Tribune magazine this week.

The disclosure comes in the annual audit of both departments by Parliament’s financial watchdog, the National Audit Office, who have qualified the accounts of both departments – as not being a true and accurate description of public spending.

According to the NAO report: “HMRC estimates that the overall level of error and fraud that resulted in overpayments in Tax Credits in 2015-16 increased to 5.5% of Tax Credits expenditure (from 4.8% in 2014-15)

“HMRC estimates that the overall level of error and fraud resulting in underpayments in Tax Credits in 2015-16 remained at 0.7% of Tax Credits expenditure (0.7% in 2014-15). This equates to overpayments of £1.57 billion and underpayments of £210 million.

“HMRC has told us that it believes the level of error and fraud in Tax Credits will increase further when measured for 2016-17. Two main factors have been identified that will lead to this increase: the introduction of the ‘Commercial with a view to a profit’ self-employment test for those who are self-employed and the impact of the Concentrix contract. The impact of these factors on error and fraud levels will not be measured until June 2018, and so the estimate of error and fraud in 2015-16 remains the most up-to-date indication available of error and fraud in Tax Credits expenditure for 2016-17.”

Concentrix were sacked by the department after a privatisation programme went wrong – and they were not up to the job.

Worse are the figures for DWP.

The  NAO’s findings are: “Excluding State Pension, overpayments are at the highest levels since 2009-10, while underpayments are at the highest recorded levels.”

Overpayments amount to £3.4bn, excluding the state pension, an increase of £400 million while underpayments are £1.5bn In percentage terms this amount to an increase to 4.1 per cent of all overpayments and 1.9 per cent of all underpayments.

The report says: “Amongst benefits measured annually for fraud and error, Employment Support Allowance and Housing Benefit overpayments are at the highest recorded levels, and Jobseeker’s Allowance overpayments have returned to the highest levels since 2010-11.

The NAO questions some of the techniques used by the DWP to calculate fraud – saying it assumes that when people don’t get back to the department for a re-assessment that they have been fraudulently claiming. This may not be the case. Also, information is out of date.

“The absence of up-to-date information on error rates in large benefit streams creates a risk that the department is not targeting its fraud and error interventions effectively,” the report says. “For example, Disability Living Allowance, which accounted for £11.5 billion of expenditure in 2016-17, has not been measured for fraud and error since 2004-05.”

All this points to some serious mismanagement by the ministries – which have been squeezed by successive coalition and Tory governments. But it doesn’t mean that those at the top have suffered. I shall return to some interesting findings in their annual reports.

Guilty: The four A4e staff who fiddled the books helping lone parents get back to work

A4e: Improving People's lives -obviously not for lone parents in this case

A4e: Improving People’s lives -obviously not for lone parents in this case

Remarkably unreported this month (outside one Daily Mail report) is that four of private work provider A4e’s staff who ripped off the taxpayer and lone parents have pleaded guilty to 30 acts of fraud and forgery. 

 I am indebted to FE Week for a report from Reading Crown Court that saw the four admit their crimes and now face sentencing later. It reports:

 “Ex-A4e recruiters Julie Grimes, Aditi Singh, Bindiya Dholiwar and Dean Lloyd, pleaded guilty to more than 30 charges of forgery and fraud when they appeared  at Reading Crown Court  on Monday, February 3.

The case followed a police investigation into financial rewards claimed for helping the unemployed into work through the European Social Fund  ‘Aspire to Inspire’ Lone Parent mentoring programme, which ended in July 2011.

It is alleged that they forged documentation to support fraudulent claims for rewards for work with learners who had not found work or did not exist over a period of four years until February last year.

Grimes, 51, of Staines, admitted nine charges of forgery and Lloyd, 37, of Milton Keynes, admitted 13 offences of forgery.

Dholiwar, 27, of Slough, admitted seven counts of forgery while Singh, 30, of Slough, admitted two counts of forgery and one of fraud. No date was set for set for sentencing.

The magazine reports that the trial of eight other ex-A4e defendants, who pleaded not guilty to all charges at Reading Crown Court, including conspiracy to cheat, is expected to start on October 6.

A further defendant, Nikki Foster, aged 30, of Reading, recruiter, was not at court on Monday. She was due to appear later this month.

The magazine also carries a statement from the chief executive of A4e  who appears to be remarkably complacent that everything is OK in the rest of the company.

Andrew Dutton, A4e chief executive, said: “I am deeply disappointed that a small number of people who formerly worked for A4e on the Aspire to Inspire contract in the Thames Valley up to 2011 clearly let down the people they were supposed to help, and in turn the taxpayer, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and A4e.

“A4e co-operated fully with the police enquiry, after our own internal investigation first brought these incidents to light.
“Since these events took place, we have augmented our controls and processes to seek to ensure that nothing like this could ever happen again…..

 He goes on: “I would also like to say thank you to our 3,000 loyal, hard-working and principled staff who each day deliver public services to the highest standards that help to improve the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable in our society.

“I am intensely proud of what they do and deeply sorry that the allegations have for so long cast a shadow over their good work.”

There is a little bit of amnesia here. I seem to remember a certain Commons Public Accounts Committee report in 2012 following hearings from whistleblowers  who worked for A4e among others.

Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, is reported as saying at the time “Where the Government chooses to use private companies to deliver public services it is essential that proper arrangements are in place to prevent and detect fraud and malpractice. In this instance, the DWP’s arrangements for overseeing and inspecting its contractors were so weak that vital evidence on potential fraud and improper practice was not picked up. The Department failed, for example, to obtain from A4e damning internal audit reports produced in 2009 which pointed to instances of potential fraud and malpractice across the country.” …

“If it had not been for whistleblowers, a range of systemic issues would not have been identified. The Department might have identified these issues if it had asked the right questions of providers. The recent investigation into A4e looked at particular allegations of fraud but not at the more fundamental question of whether the company was a ‘fit and proper’ contractor.”

 

Need I say more! I won’t in respect of the eight other A4e employees so they get a fair trial.

 

Atos deaths: A letter to Mr… Smith

This is an appalling situation. Officlal statistics on the deaths of disabled claimants -particularly in the climate where individual suicides have been already been reported- should be kept. I can well see it is remarkably convenient for the DWP to save money by not bothering to produce them. It seems to me part of  nastyagenda- saying the government does not want to know the consequences of its own policies. Part of the view of the right wing that there is no such thing as society as Margaret Thatcher once said.

Vox Political

Atos: Welcome to Hell

Is the Department for Work and Pensions unable to compile data about the number of incapacity benefits claimants (including IB and ESA) who have died because it is underfunded – or understaffed?

That is the main question in Samuel Miller’s latest letter to Iain (Something) Smith, which you can find over at http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.ca/2013/06/my-latest-letter-to-iain-duncan-smith.html

This blog mentioned a few days ago that LieDS and his department have decided to withhold up-to-date information on the number of deaths involving people going through the assessment process for benefits (via Atos), who have been refused benefit or who are appealing against a decision.

Vox Political has put in a Freedom of Information request, requiring the DWP to produce that information, and we know that many of you have followed that lead.

Mr Miller has been in the fortunate position to write an authoritative inquiry – as the person who made the original request all…

View original post 411 more words

Work Programme providers’ plea is an insult to everyone they have mishandled

This is not good news for the BBC, the work programme or the government. If you take in context the scandal involving A4e which provided placements under first programme I did an extra investigation on top of the work done by the Public Accounts Committee exposing failings in A4e internal audit. My investigation revealed in one small town Bridlington A4 e had placed people with as firm going into liquidation, one run by people from a a house in Rotherham that never filed accounts, another with a company not registered at Companies House, and two with a cafe and taxi firm that subsequently went bust. In other places it turned out they had sent one person to a lap dancing club in Liverpool and a person with a criminal record to a firm which didn’t want to employ people with criminal records. See my own blog https://davidhencke.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/exclusive-how-you-got-state-funded-work-experience-in-a-strip-club-with-a4e/

Vox Political

It isn’t very often one can say a news report was shocking – not because of the subject matter, but because of the way it was reported.

That was the situation tonight with the BBC’s item in which Work Programme providers complained that they need more money to “help” the most challenging jobseekers into work.

This group, of course, being benefit claimants in the work-related activity group of Employment and Support Allowance.

This group being the most consistently abused and neglected element of the new underclass created by the Conservative-led Coalition government, demonised and hated by the right-wing press, often attacked in the street (to judge from first-hand accounts), many of whom have been driven to suicide or death caused by their conditions, which have been worsened by the unacceptable (and to most people reading this, inconceivable) amount of stress the DWP, Atos (the private company assessing their fitness…

View original post 938 more words