Learning from mistakes

Its attempts at handling the public’s demand for tax credits and the respective helpline would be comical if it wasn’t so serious.

When combined with the seemingly suicidal decision to sell its property portfolio to a company based in a tax haven, it was only a matter of time before there were calls for a change in management.

Exactly where these came from is anybody’s guess.

Michael Fallon, chairman of the Treasury select committee that continues to investigate the Mapeley ordeal, is quoted as saying Sir Nick Montagu’s position is ‘precarious’.

Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat MP, has gone on record as saying there is a ‘case for change at the top of the Inland Revenue’. But while these words were certainly uttered, it seems it is the media that really has it in for Sir Nick. But is this the answer?

Speaking to Sir Nick himself throws a new light on the situation. Nobody can accuse him of not being committed to the cause. Neither can anyone doubt his passion.

He told Accountancy Age that he had the full backing of Gordon Brown. I have no doubt this is true. The chancellor knows just how big a task Sir Nick has. He also knows there are precious few people capable of doing it.

Sir Nick has gained a great deal of respect in his six years in the job. Replacing him now would do little or nothing to improve an obviously struggling department. When asked what changes he would implement following the Mapeley fiasco, Sir Nick’s eyes visibly light up, and he becomes notably more animated.

He is a man willing to acknowledge mistakes rather than dwell on them.

The important thing is, he says, to get systems working, to get payments running and to relieve his people.

It is a pragmatic view, and the only one that will stand any chance of successfully running one of the government’s busiest, most public facing departments.

There is no doubt that there have been cock-ups, but learning from them is the secret to true success.

Related reading