Benefits Agency accounts get a black mark for 11th year in a row

Sir John Bourn’s action over the 1998-99 Appropriation Accounts follows hard on the heels of a Public Accounts Committee’s findings on his reports on the accounts for 1997-98 and earlier years involving a total of £2bn in `gross miscalculation’ of income support and job seekers’ benefits.

He said there had been ‘some improvement’ in accuracy in volume terms in both allowances, but identified a further increase in the gross level of error to £882m, with wide variations in different regions of the UK.

East London and Anglia, Chilterns and London South areas failed to reach 80% of accuracy, blaming difficulties recruiting and keeping quality staff and the increased complexity of assessments.

Only East Scotland exceeded the target rate of 87% for accuracy. Sir John said he did not under-estimate the scale of the agency’s task in tackling fraud and error, but ‘the levels of both are unacceptably high.’

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