Public accountability for civil servants who waste taxpayers’ money

06 September 2016

George Bull

In earlier editions of our weekly tax brief, we have been frankly critical of the mismatch in the treatment of non-compliant tax payers who can be publically named and shamed by HMRC, while civil servants who mismanage projects and waste huge amounts of taxes after they have been collected retain their anonymity. We were concerned that this mismatch was not only unjust as a matter of principle but also risked bringing the tax system in particular, and civil servants in general, into disrepute.

We were therefore pleased to see, on the HMRC website, the publication of letters sent to Senior Responsible Owners (SROs) within the Government Major Projects Portfolio (GMPP). The letters, which generally run to four or more pages, are sent to named individuals and are accompanied by a 19-page briefing pack. The most recent four SRO appointment letters published by HMRC relate to the following projects:

  • building our future locations;
  • customs declaration services;
  • columbus; and
  • tax-free childcare.

Neither I nor any of my colleagues can remember having seen earlier SRO appointment letters from HMRC or from any other government department. However, for those prepared to do the digging, it’s comforting to know that named civil servants are tasked with responsibility for major projects, and accountability if things go wrong.

Definitely a step in the right direction, and an enormous help in building up public trust. The symmetry with naming and shaming tax evaders is to be welcomed.

If you would like any more information on this issue please get in touch with George Bull or your usual RSM contact.