Will HMRC cuts become the data loss scapegoat?

Gavin Hinks, AccountancyAge

So it falls to the PricewaterhouseCoopers senior partner to answer many of
the tough questions that the catastrophic admissions of the last ten days have
thrown up. Are HMRC practices and procedures for handling and transferring
confidential data sufficiently robust? And do the processes for ensuring that
those practices and procedures are communicated and adhered to actually work?

If that was all the report was about, we needn’t wait with baited breath.
Clearly, the answer to both those questions is ‘no’. More significant will be
Poynter’s interim suggestions on ‘any further, urgent measures that HMRC should
put in place to guarantee the data confidentiality’.

There’s been no shortage of scapegoating (though Paul Gray was right to
resign) and politicking in recent days. Nevertheless, in reviewing arrangements,
Poynter cannot afford to ignore a key political issue ­ resourcing. He is bound
to turn to July’s report by the Commons Treasury committee on how implementation
of government efficiency arrangements are affecting Whitehall.

HMRC needs to save £507m and cut 16,000 jobs April. Committee members were
clear that even though HMRC is well down the road on delivering those savings,
all is far from well: ‘The indicators used by HMRC to measure the quality of its
services are not adequate to assess the experience of service users’.

His brief may say otherwise, but Poynter will find it hard to avoid his views
being seen as contributing to the debate about whether HMRC cuts have gone too

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