back to article Capita screw-ups are the pits! Brit ex-miner pensioners billed for thousands in extra tax

Troubled outsourcer Capita accidentally charged 17,000 former miners in the UK tens of thousands of pounds in extra tax, and has blamed the error on a change to HM Revenue & Customs' online PAYE portal. Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the country's National Union of Mineworkers, told The Register that Capita should have …

  1. djstardust

    Outsourcing .....

    Isn't working. Crapita, G4S, (we don't give)ATOS, Serco are all as bad as each other.

    Screwed up contracts, bad employee relations and billions of pounds down the shitter.

    Seems Amey are at it as well: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-43350287

    Seriously, I can't see why the public don't really seem to care about this. It's a national embarrassment and should be kicked in to the long grass. Ultimately it's our tax payers money being wasted.

    1. Timmy B
      FAIL

      Re: Outsourcing .....

      I agree. I don't even see the logic. Once upon a time the government wanted something done they did it. They paid themselves to do it so apart from what it cost to do it cost no more. Now they pay a private company to do it and thus it takes the cost + profit to do. How is that sustainable. Oh - competition will drive prices down will it? Where is that working exactly.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing .....

        Pretty much my argument.

        If an outside company can do the project and make a profit, it means government could do the same and either a) make profit or b) not charge as much to do so, with the difference being immediate and direct into the Treasury.

        But then, I've had this argument with people for decades. Why do schools hire cleaners via agencies? Just... hire a cleaner. Why do we outsource IT? Just... hire an IT guy.

        If it's not important enough to hire even a single part-timer, then it may be worth paying someone who deals with dozens of such customers to absorb the costs (which should make it cheaper than you hiring someone, not more expensive). But you wouldn't afford to hire someone via such an agency if it's more expensive than you doing it yourself. And if it's important enough to demand dozens or hundreds of permanent staff... you could do it cheaper yourself by... hiring those SAME dozens or hundreds of permanent staff.

        Every outsourced thing I've ever seen or used ends up being the same answer. Either not as good because they skimp, or more expensive than just doing it yourself.

        There's a reason that everyone of my bosses, when asked about outsourcing the IT, has a series of yarns of previous attempts and they ended up just hiring me instead.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          I'm pretty well of the same opinion as you however, the problem is HM Treasury.

          I know from personal experience (hence the anon) that they love nothing more than getting involved with Government funded projects that are being actually done by the public sector.

          Their involvement usually involved many deep intakes of breath, lots of tut-tutting and ends up with your budget being cut and changes in spec and/or timescales being shortened.

          Sometimes departments outsource work just to keep the Treasury from watching how many buscuits are eaten at weekly team meetings (often worse).

        2. Andrew Moore

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          "If an outside company can do the project and make a profit, it means government could do the same"

          It's a fair point. The reason why the government won't do it? Responsibility. Any public sector I have worked with have a rabid phobia of being personally responsible- they pay other (private sector) entities to be culpable; they are not outsourcing in order to get the job done; they're buying scapegoats. The exact same mentality is behind decision-making too.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Outsourcing .....

            >Any public sector I have worked with have a rabid phobia of being personally responsible

            You missed a couple of words: "public sector *senior manager*"

            I've worked with plenty of people in the public sector who are not afraid of personal responsibility. Sadly though, very few of them are in senior positions. Once they get to a certain grade, the "Daily Mail headline" paranoia starts creeping in. And yes, I've had senior civil servants use that exact phrase to me. As well as the "we hire consultants so we can blame them when it goes wrong".

          2. AmyInNH

            Re: Outsourcing .....

            "a rabid phobia of being personally responsible", as do most people, when they are responsible for something they have no control over.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing .....

        "They paid themselves to do it so apart from what it cost to do it cost no more."

        Actually it does. The Ponzi nature of Civil Service pensions is a cost for the future. The notional deduction from pay (the pay rates are supposed to take into account what would be the cost of pension contributions) doesn't go into a fund. If it did HMRC would probably take a rather less aggressive approach to what they see as overfunding. Instead pensions are paid out of current taxation. In consequence every member of the civil service doing something now represents a future pension cost. This is one of the things that govt. can dump on someone else by outsourcing. Of course when the outsourcer's pension scheme goes TITSUP* it might well be HMG picking up the bill in the long run.

        *Typical Industry Titan's Shockingly Underfunded Pension.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          Of course when the outsourcer's pension scheme goes TITSUP* it might well be HMG picking up the bill in the long run.

          Not much of it. When a private sector DB pension fund finds itself up shit creek with inadequate funding, all the other private sector DB pension funds have to chip in as part of the "Pension Protection Fund", not HMG (except Openreach, who have got government to agree that if they go bust, HMG will take the hit). Pensioners in a scheme that is a casualty also take a hit on their benefits - the only people laughing are investors who got paid dividends and directors paid bonuses as the scheme ran up the deficit. You, know, like at Carillion.

          Thus the good, well run pension schemes incur the costs of the crap inadequate ones that the government's Pensions Regulator failed to properly regulate, despite being asked to intervene at Carillion in 2010 and 2013. That also shows why I don't want government trying to provide services. If their best efforts at regulation are the Pensions Regulator and Ofcom, imagine how crap they'd be at running anything. I remember the GPO, British Leyland, CEGB, NCB, British Railways and the rest - all of them shitty, inefficient businesses that didn't give a flying fuck about their customers.

        2. Timmy B

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          "The Ponzi nature of Civil Service pensions is a cost for the future."

          I totally agree. Pay them the right rate and make them pay for their own pensions like everyone else. That goes for all of them from PM to street-sweeper (I put those down in reverse order of usefulness).

      3. CrazyOldCatMan

        Re: Outsourcing .....

        Oh - competition will drive prices down will it?

        To an extent. But because the outsourcers still want their senior management to be able to afford a new BMW every year, the cost to deliver the service will also drop - to the extent that the only people the outsourcers can afford to have on the contract are the ineffective, the ineffectual and the incompetent.

        Oh - and some project managers (see description above) and Business Studies types (ditto) to produce lots of pretty graphs to distract the credulous.

        It works because, unlike employees[1], the outsourcers only care about doing the job only-just-well-enough to not have the contract immediately cancelled. And, since the senior managers understand that there are plenty more contracts in the pool (at the moment), they manage to survive by moving onto another victom^W contract until they are forced to move onto the next bloated leech of an outsourcer.

        [1] Not universally, there are people employed in IT departments that I wouldn't trust to run an abacus, let alone something technical. But, in general, they don't survive that long - unless they happen to be a relative of the person who owns the company..

      4. gnarlymarley

        Re: Outsourcing .....

        Oh - competition will drive prices down will it?

        Actually, the so called "competition" (atleast in the US of A) is their buddies. Much of these companies are nothing more than "friends" of the crooked politicians. And to think we think we can vote them out, except the new ones we vote in become corrupt quicker than we are voting them out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outsourcing .....

      It is not working FOR YOU. for some ppl it is working, they get plenty of money...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Outsourcing .....

        The problem is that after so long of operating, an internal government department ends up with a too high percentage of lazy incompetents who the government can't fire because their unions would go on strike.

        The solution widely deployed is to outsource the department and TUPE all the staff over, then switch contracts to a different service provider afterwards to neatly remove the problem.

        Once you've done that, you could bring the department back inhouse for another decade or so but it'd look a bit transparrent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          The main purpose is that the next government has to clean it up.

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Outsourcing .....

            The main purpose is that the next government has to clean it up.

            No they don't. They toss blame about and make statements to the effect that they will clean it up. But... never happens or they leave things in a worse state than when they took over.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Outsourcing .....

              The main purpose is that the next government has to clean it up.

              No they don't. They toss blame about and make statements to the effect that they will clean it up. But... never happens or they leave things in a worse state than when they took over.

              Perhaps I was too simplistic.

              The main purpose is they can project a facade that the next government will clean it up, and blame the future if it turns into the almighty clusterfuck we all know it will.

              Better?

        2. The First Dave

          Re: Outsourcing .....

          @AC: "The solution widely deployed is to outsource the department"

          At which point most of the good staff leave and find a job that suits them better, while the dross continue to work for the new company...

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing .....

      .. has blamed the error on a change to HM Revenue & Customs' online PAYE portal.

      Did Capita build the HM Revenue & Customs' online PAYE portal. though?

    4. yatsura2016

      Re: Outsourcing .....

      > Ultimately it's our tax payers money being wasted.

      No it's not it's _customers_ money. That way it doesn't make seem so bad.

    5. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing .....

      Seriously, I can't see why the public don't really seem to care about this.

      They do care but they've learned that getting angry and yelling doesn't do any good. Complaints get filed away. The hierarchy maintains that they "know better than the common people" and ignore the complaints unless some major media picks up the details and then they respond with the usual weasel words.

  2. Duffaboy

    it's always someone else's fault

    Outsourcing the blame as well

  3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Poke in the eye...

    It's like watching an abusive relationship. The gov. Just keeps on going back. Black eye an all.

    1. Timmy B

      Re: Poke in the eye...

      "It's like watching an abusive relationship. The gov. Just keeps on going back. Black eye an all."

      I seriously think it's because they will have someone to blame if something truly catastrophic happens.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Poke in the eye...

        What, the 'he/she made me do it!' line?

      2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: Poke in the eye...

        There in lies the rub. It already has... time and time again.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    common sense

    I have never heard of any government agency using common sense.

    After all, their political masters don't.

  5. James 51
    Headmaster

    I hate it when bodies refer to me and others as customers. We're not customers, we're tax payers, citizens/subjects and there is a difference.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Yep. If HMRC view me as a customer then surely I can withdraw my custom without issue?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As I understand it the public sector has to play by a slightly different set of employment laws which make employing anyone quite a bit more expensive than a similar hire in the private sector.

    Also if you get a job in a council you'll likely be on the living wage as a minimum with defined benefits and a pension. Private sector might well declare you self employed make you bid for your own work and go to court to avoid paying you the minimum wage never mind benefits.

    That's why we outsource. You TUPE your public sector guys across, then after the minimum period effectively sack them all and rehire on appalling terms. Take the public monkey whilst spending 10% of lawyers to work through the contract ensuring you never have to deliver on anything in that contract.

    Not that I'm cynical or anything

  7. Sir Runcible Spoon
    Mushroom

    Typical Bureaucrats

    We sincerely apologise for any concern and inconvenience this has caused."

    Do these people seriously not understand the anxiety & stress that a huge & unexpected tax bill from HMRC can cause?

    These are pensioners we are talking about, right?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Typical Bureaucrats

      "We sincerely apologise for any concern and inconvenience this has caused."

      More like typical PR. It's another situation where the likes of el Reg should make life more difficult:

      "Don't you mean 'the concern' rather than 'any concern'?"

      "Then why didn't you say so?"

      Weasel words contaminate the language. Journalists shouldn't let them get away with it. Even if they don't get chance to question the wording as I just suggested they should at least comment on it when quoting it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe el reg needs a crapita corner, a weekly round of the weeks outsourcing screw ups.

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Maybe el reg needs a crapita corner, a weekly round of the weeks outsourcing screw ups.

      You mean that there isn't one already? It might not conform to a weekly schedule but there is certainly no shortage of outsourcing failure reporting.

      Crapita Corner... just the sort of name Private Eye might use.

    2. John G Imrie

      crapita corner

      I thought that was Private Eye's job.

      1. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

        Re: crapita corner

        Private Eye are already covering it and have for years.

        PFI reduces direct responsibility for governments, and also moves any spending off the record books so that spurious budget targets can be met.

        All major parties are complicit with this. It got much worse under Labour, then the Tories continued apace.

        Corbyn has realised re-nationalisation (slowly) is a vote winner, so is punting it for the trains and other areas.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: crapita corner

          "Corbyn has realised re-nationalisation (slowly) is a vote winner, so is punting it for the trains and other areas."

          In that case I'm glad I no longer travel by train. I remember what it was like before it was nationalised. as per a comment above, they had to address announcements to "customers". They couldn't call us "travellers" when they were telling us why we weren't travelling or "passengers" when we were simply standing about on the platform.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: crapita corner

            "In that case I'm glad I no longer travel by train. I remember what it was like before it was nationalised"

            My grandfather could do that, but he's been dead quite a long time. It was de facto nationalised when we had something resembling the present situation - loads of different companies making a hash of things - and they were forced into 4 regional companies (he became part of the LNER), leading to the "golden age" of the railways in the 1930s. Formal nationalisation after WW2 was accompanied by economic decline, which is bad for infrastructure.

            Railways are being heavily used now, perhaps it is time for a new rationalisation to get rid of the mixed responsibilities and general dysfunctional mess of government actually interfering in state run railways because they make the private sector look bad, and dogma says that must not happen.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: crapita corner

            Yes and I remember what it was like when nationalised - and round here it was a hell of a lot better than the utter privatised shambles it is now !!!

          3. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

            Re: crapita corner

            It really isn't that simple - some of the franchises have been utter disasters, and there's also the fact that carriages are allocated by central government. That means it's taken years for e.g. Northern to be supplied new (old, recycled London) carriages, and I'm still sandwiched in to thirty year old Pacer trains (could be worse though, could be the Welsh valleys, which get castoffs from everywhere that's getting rid of their already castoff trains)

            I'd certainly vote for re-nationalisation when each franchise ended.

            Currently the situation is also that the Tories are blaming the train companies for strikes due to Driver Only Operated trains, when DOO is actually a franchise requirement set by.. the Tories.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: crapita corner

          >and also moves any spending off the record books

          Much like the department of health did some years ago. A minister wanted to be able to stand up in Parliament and say that they had cut headcount at the DoH.

          So they moved a whole set of teams out to several 'charities' - of which one was NHS Employers. There were two immediate issues:

          1) They didn't move the budgets with the staff. So NHS Employers could no longer actually do anything - all they could do is issue recommendations to DoH committees who would then (possibly) provide budget. So you now have another layer of officialdom, one of which was utterly useless.

          2) Over time, the DoH discovered that they couldn't function in the areas that they had done since the staff who used to do certain functions were now no longer there. So, over time, those positions were eventually backfilled. But, before that happened, the minister was indeed able to stand up in Parliament and (sort of) truthfully say "we have cut headcount at DoH".

          So you ended up with more people on the Government payroll - some directly and some funded via grant to the 'charities' involved. And that, my friends, is how Government cost-cutting cycles end up costing more money and being less accountable.

    3. Mark 65

      Maybe el reg needs a crapita corner, a weekly round of the weeks outsourcing screw ups.

      Should copying the naming from Viz's "Up the arse" corner seeing as that's more how it is turning out for those paying the bill.

  9. N2 Silver badge

    Crapita

    The gold standard for cock-ups, usually on a biblical scale.

  10. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Unhappy

    My poor mouse...

    I've worn it out clicking upvotes on all of this splendid common sense.

  11. Hans 1

    Capita won the contract to administer miners' pensions at the end of last year.

    Thank Feynman I am not a miner ... this is just the beginning ... incompetence in action!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what craptia is saying they were set to build the project and were ready to go when at the last minute the specs were changed .

    Why does this sound plausible ?

  13. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Glad to see gibbermints are the same no matter where you may reside/live/have rumpypumpy.

    Seems all they do is waste taxpayer money and is planning extra taxes etc so as to maximize oinkage.

    Lord Dimwit Flathead the Excessive surely had something going with his plans for a 100% tax rate...

    ---> http://zork.wikia.com/wiki/Dimwit_Flathead

  14. Oengus

    What's that?

    Capita should have properly tested the new system before taking it live.

    I am working on a project to implement a new system and whenever I ask has something been tested I get blank looks from the vendor (and "assurances" it will work). Whenever I fail something because it doesn't do what I expected I get hauled over the coals for delaying the project. If I had left it to the vendor we would have been live 10 months ago and in a mess by now.

    The vendor and "Global" team who authorised the project don't care how much it screws up. It doesn't impact them. If the project is delayed or goes over budget (it has already done so on both counts) they don't get their bonuses. That is all that they seem to care about.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Angel

    Poor old Capita

    It must be so frustrating to never do anything wrong yet always get the blame.

    /s

  16. a pressbutton

    It isn't just Capita

    As others have mentioned, if the job requires less than one person, outsourcing makes sense.

    Consider getting your car serviced - not many people diy, most take it to kwik fit. Consider having your teeth filled - not many people diy, most take it to a dentist

    Following on. Many large cos have outsourced cleaners, but, Not many large cos outsource their accounting function.

    So, outsourcing does work for non-core functions that can be done better by a more specialised group.

    The thing is that with the rise of t'internet, that specialised knowledge is out there for anyone for find for not much.

    This tells me that outsourcing should work where you employ less than one person (or in a complex area, where you cannot employ enough people to maintain the knowledge).

    Beyond that it should work for a while, in new areas or areas where the business processes are changing, but once he work is well understood, and the processes change less, it will tend to work less well than in-sourcing.

    This is why Jon Lewis (!) keeps on saying that Capita is an IT company and in the 'change' / 'transformation' business as that is where a viable outsourcing business _might_ be.

  17. Roj Blake

    Scargill

    I wonder what Arthur Scargill would have to say about his former kingdom using Crapita?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Scargill

      He wouldn't care as long as he got his bung, and a chance to blame the Tories.

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Scargill

        With the current shambles of Tories, he might even give up the bung :-)

  18. PeterM42
    Facepalm

    Another Week....

    ....ANOTHER Crapita foulup.

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