HMRC sanctions enforcer comes under heavy fire from MPs
by Felicity Collier
SACKED US privateer Concentrix, responsible for wrongly axing tax credits, has been condemned by MPs for putting tens of thousands of benefits claimants in “humiliating hardship.”
Concentrix used draconian measures that were “stacked against claimants” who were treated as “guilty until they could somehow prove themselves innocent,” according to a work and pensions committee review published today.
The firm’s decisions led to a widespread loss of benefits, use of foodbanks, rent arrears and resorting to costly loans.
In many cases, claimants only found out they had been penalised when they checked their bank accounts.
In 90 per cent of appeal cases decisions were overturned — but payments were staggered, leaving families high and dry.
The MPs also rounded on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for criticism, stating the department was “not only complicit in the decision-making process used by Concentrix, they pressured their failing contractor to subject yet more claimants to it.”
Although Concentrix had its contract terminated by HMRC in November, the report raises concern that some of the same processes are being continued in-house by HMRC.
The MPs also had concerns that “despite protestations to the contrary,” HMRC had been negotiating a new contract with Concentrix, only pulling the plug four days before it was due to start under pressure from the media and Parliament.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury MP Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “The government has run out of excuses, £32.5 million of taxpayers’ money has been sunk into this contract, so not only do we need an independent public inquiry to ensure these mistakes are never repeated again but the claimants also deserve an apology for the appalling ordeal they have been through.”
The report advises HMRC to review all summer 2016 Concentrix decisions that have not already been appealed against.
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The Concentrix scandal should not just spell the end of the privatisation of tax credits work in HMRC, it should be the final nail in the coffin for the hiving-off of our welfare state.”
The report concluded: “The system of outsourcing should be overhauled: it is imperative that private contractors can be held accountable for their performance.”
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