The HMRC Helpline (and what it tells us about government)

November 21, 2007 12:29 PM

HMRC have announced that any of the 25 million people whose personal and banking information has been lost or stolen can now phone 0845 302 1444 for information and advice about the "organisational failure" and how to protect themselves against any resulting risk of fraud or identity theft.

Given the gravity of the problem and the number of people affected, it has taken HMRC a remarkably long time since yesterday's announcement to set this phone line up and start publicising it. If you consider that they've actually known about the data loss for more than 11 days now, it is another disgraceful delay in a story full of squandered time.

Worse is the fact that, having finally set up the number, Revenue and Customs have used an 0845 number which is not even free to call. Having caused 25 million people great anxiety (and it is still entirely possible that it will yet cost people money or their identities) the idea that those people will now have to pay to get advice on how to protect themselves is insulting. People are furious about this gross error - and the Government's bungled handling of the issue is only going to make things worse.

This Agency messed up horrendously - their budget should be tapped for the resources to help put it right. HMRC should be paying for these phone calls, not the innocent victims of HMRC incompetence.

If we wanted to find some areas in the HMRC budget that could provide the funding, we could do worse than start by looking at the senior management. Eight HMRC senior staff members appeared in the TPA 2007 Public Sector Rich List at a total cost to the taxpayer of £1,212,350. Perhaps some room could be found in that sum to help finance a phone line?

If Government Departments knew that if they make errors, their budgets or bonuses will have to bear the costs of setting things right it would be a useful incentive to run things properly in the first place.HMRC have announced that any of the 25 million people whose personal and banking information has been lost or stolen can now phone 0845 302 1444 for information and advice about the "organisational failure" and how to protect themselves against any resulting risk of fraud or identity theft.

Given the gravity of the problem and the number of people affected, it has taken HMRC a remarkably long time since yesterday's announcement to set this phone line up and start publicising it. If you consider that they've actually known about the data loss for more than 11 days now, it is another disgraceful delay in a story full of squandered time.

Worse is the fact that, having finally set up the number, Revenue and Customs have used an 0845 number which is not even free to call. Having caused 25 million people great anxiety (and it is still entirely possible that it will yet cost people money or their identities) the idea that those people will now have to pay to get advice on how to protect themselves is insulting. People are furious about this gross error - and the Government's bungled handling of the issue is only going to make things worse.

This Agency messed up horrendously - their budget should be tapped for the resources to help put it right. HMRC should be paying for these phone calls, not the innocent victims of HMRC incompetence.

If we wanted to find some areas in the HMRC budget that could provide the funding, we could do worse than start by looking at the senior management. Eight HMRC senior staff members appeared in the TPA 2007 Public Sector Rich List at a total cost to the taxpayer of £1,212,350. Perhaps some room could be found in that sum to help finance a phone line?

If Government Departments knew that if they make errors, their budgets or bonuses will have to bear the costs of setting things right it would be a useful incentive to run things properly in the first place.

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