Knights of the order of St Emma
The Tory Party is rallying to defend Emma Harrison of A4E by turning its boot boys loose on Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. The PAC and Margaret Hodge got complaints about A4E and Working Links so we decided to hear four whistleblowers. In what looked like a concerted move Tories objected so the committee heard the complaints in private with the Permanent Head of the Department of Work and Pensions present. Matthew Hancock then objected to the publication of the hearing and Chris Grayling and Ian Duncan Smith began to bad mouth the whistleblowers, the PAC and Margaret Hodge without having seen the evidence.
They don’t like it up ‘em because it’s crucial to defend both the work programme and A4E as Tory flagships. Even at the expense of damaging and disrupting the PAC.
Mitchell’s Impartial View? The work programme and payment by results are good idea. The controls are much tighter. Yet they’re not perfect. The contractors receive interim payments, they’re paid for people who would have got jobs anyway and it’s impossible, with DWP staff cuts, to police everything. So fiddles are still possible and the evidence of the whistleblowers showed that these are greedy contractors who have no adequate internal control or audit procedures. The people at the top didn’t really want to know what was going on at the bottom so that DWP could not be sure that these are fit and proper companies to do the job.
The DWP’s first enquiry is a whitewash. We must hope that it’s second and the examination of cases produced to the PAC is tougher and more thorough.
Companies making millions out of the public service by doing what civil servants used to do are a new phenomenon. They must be scrutinised as closely as the departmental staff they’ve replaced would have been. That is, after all, the job of the Public Accounts Committee. So call off your clog dancers Grayling.
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