back to article Ombudsman slams DWP, HMRC data dumbnesses

Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham today slammed bungling government departments for a series of systemic failures that left one of their clients distressed, fearful and out of pocket. Further upholding charges of maladministration and injustice against the departments involved, Ms Abraham warned that unless government bodies …


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  1. handle

    "We are very sorry for any distress"

    Why do people say this? It just shouts insincerity to the core. Of course she suffered distress, so why not acknowledge that she has by saying sorry for THE distress, instead of spouting hypocritical weasel cliches of arse-covering lawyer-speak?

  2. Anonymous Coward


    "making other people feel the way Ms M told me she feels: that she will never be able to trust a government agency again."

    Who are these people that DON'T think they fuck everything up they touch and buck pass. Ah... A 15 year old that has yet to pay any taxes.

  3. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Down

    Trust this goverment ??

    You mean the ones that will allow you to only legally claim back up to 3 months and only under exceptional circumstances

    Yet claim back from us up to 7 years regardless of circumstance.

    Yeah faith in government went long ago. funnily enough just about the time i stopped paying taxes and needed help from them for once.

  4. McToo

    Ah... 'civil' servants...

    Quote: "In addition, the three agencies, in discussion with the Cabinet Office, have agreed to put in place a customer-focused protocol to deal with complaints of this kind." Errr.... helloooo.... we pay your f***ing wages, you idiots. It should have been 'customer focused' from the beginning! They really need to start firing some of these people, those left might get a clue. If they don't, fire them as well. Welcome to the real world.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Ms Abraham warned that unless government bodies get their act together, the public may lose their trust in them altogether."

    And the government bodies responded thusly:

    "OOOOOOhhhhhh don't let the public lose their trust in us, oh noes........HAHAHAHAHAHAH"

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very rare case?

    No it isn't. I was buck-passed for two years while HMRC thought I lived in Scotland for some reason. Then they manage to screw up even the temporary NI number they gave me. I talked to one of the people there and he said "This happens all the time. The rare cases are when we have *three* people, each with the same NI number. Two, for example, happens very often."

    Anonymous for the "not comment on individual cases" nonsense.

  7. Shakje

    Isn't this a violation of the DPA?

    I thought there was something in there about making sure the data was up-to-date, and there was some sort of time limit for updating it after being notified of it?

  8. Kevin Johnston


    'there should be an apology for the £2,000 compensation'????

    Hopefully a typo, either that or it is an apology that the compensation is so low...

  9. frank ly

    BS and weasel words

    "... Due to our statutory duty of taxpayer confidentiality we can’t comment on this individual case,.."

    BS! They do not need to reveal her name or address or any identifiable information about the unfortunate woman involved. They need to analyse their own bungling incompetence and comment on it, without using weasel phrases. Better still, have an external agency go in there and examine what goes on and how this could happen and then make a public report on their findings.

  10. JeepBoy
    Paris Hilton

    Audit Trail ?

    As I'm sure El Reg realises, the "additional steps" would involve building in audit trail functionality to track the data changes going into the system - and who made them.

    If it wasn't thought about when the system was built/designed, it ain't gonna happen anytime soon!

    Paris... coz she'd have made a better job of designing the system!

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Can't get it right even on electronic submissions

    As a company director I have to get the accountants to file my tax returnS.

    Even with the information supplied correctly in electronic format, the idiots at HMRC still manage to send me an incorrect tax coding every year, by taking the money the company owes me, and turning it into me owing the company (directors loans are taxable), a situation that has never existed.

    I would like for them to get it right just once!

  12. RW

    "Immediate steps"

    When the problem is due to deeply embedded causes, you ain't gonna fix it any time soon, and most definitely not "immediately." The govt depts' concern isn't for the harm they've caused this woman, or anyone else. It's simple annoyance at their carelessness being exposed to public scrutiny.

    Without knowing a thing about the details, it's still easy to guess some of the systemic contributing factors:

    1. Managers with authority but no (or little, or obsolete) technical expertise making decisions they are unqualified to make.

    2. Outsourcing development instead of developing in-house.

    3. Hiring poorly paid, inept code monkeys instead of facing the fact that truly competent IT people are in very short supply and if you want good ones (not necessarily "the best') you have to pay for them. No such thing as bargain basement experts.

    4. The MBA mentality that views employees as fungible assets, all interchangeable cogs, instead of recognizing that every employee has a unique combination of smarts, education, experience, and overall competency. No, dears, that secretary over there is NOT qualified to carry out that statistical analysis you want, even if she has a vague idea what a spreadsheet is.

    5. Deadwood in the upper ranks of management who yearn for the days when they had paper records, preferably maintained by hand in blue-black ink with fountain pens.

    6. Blairite fascination with big projects, instead of the little dull boring unexciting ones that actually do the hard work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MBA mentality

      Nice to see someone blaming management training. Things worked a lot better when we didn't have any.

      Agree with all your other points too, btw.

    2. chr0m4t1c


      "2. Outsourcing development instead of developing in-house.

      3. Hiring poorly paid, inept code monkeys instead of facing the fact that truly competent IT people are in very short supply and if you want good ones (not necessarily "the best') you have to pay for them. No such thing as bargain basement experts."

      There's your problem right there, you don't want to be doing development in house *and* outsourcing it, that's bound to end in tears.

      Mind you, if all of the management are bungling idiots I don't think there's a sound case for either method of development as they're both destined to fail.

  13. richard 7

    Just a quick...

    'Ms Abraham warned that unless government bodies get their act together, the public may lose their trust in them altogether'

    I wouldnt say so much as closing the door after the door has bolted...

    More sweeping up the debris after the hinges have rusted to dust, the door has decomposed and the paint has reverted to its original constituents.

    WAKEY WAKEY The public have marginally more faith in the ability to predict weather from seaweed than the civil services ability to not totally shag something up.

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    *no* audit trail.

    Are they f***king joking?

    No way to identify maliciously (for cash, spite or giggles) updated/added/deleted records

    No way to identify incompetently (half trained PFY) updated/added/deleted records

    On *any* of these systems.

    Now I'm *fairly* certain that any of the usual suspects who bid for what is in effect CSA 2.0 would have put this in as an option-at-extra-cost.

    But what about the *other* systems, some of which *probably* predate the orgy of outsourcing and CCT that started in 1979

    What's their excuse? Frankly this should be a boiler plate clause in *any* government IT contract (of *any* government, not just the UK) handling personal data.

    I sense an FoI request. Something along the lines of

    1) How many systems in your department hold "sensitive" data (as defined inthe DPA).

    2) How many of them have audit trail capability?

    3) How many of those with audit trail capability are switched on?

    4) If not, why not?

    5)How many of your staff could read the audit trail output and use it to correct errors?

    That accidents happen is a reality. No audit trail is *no* accident. It's not like not having a burglar alarm. It's like having a house with *no* locks on any doors and posting a list of your valuables on the notice board in the unemployment office with your address and when you're out.

  15. John Dougald McCallum

    Civil Servants?

    Did you honestly expect to get a Civilservant to hold up their hand and say we are terribly sorry we cocked this up big time if so what planet are you on certainly not Earth.All a civil servant needs is a pencil and they can realy screw your life up give them a live computer and they can realy screw you not to mention a network.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    National database, ID cards and numptiz

    Nothing new here then?

    Besides their trade union will probably give stern warning over self-implication or self-incrimination.

    And some of 'em will be on more than £150k a year.

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