Friday, February 22, 2013

BLOG 133


In pursuance of its commitment to openness, the government is publishing more and more fascinating information.  In Blog 132, I mentioned their “cost per transaction” statistics.  The latest fascinating document is a staff satisfaction survey.  To avoid others having to plough through it, I thought I would share some of the information that relates to HMRC.

Accordingly I set out below the questions that particularly struck me, together with the average response from the whole of the Civil Service and the responses from HMRC staff only.  Apart from the last one, staff were asked to indicate whether they agreed with the statement made, and the percentage figures shown below is the percentage of staff that either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.  On the last question, staff were asked to allocate points from nil (completely dissatisfied) to 10 (completely satisfied).  The percentage shown is those that chose 7 and upwards.

                                                                                                Civil                HMRC
                                                                                                Service          Staff
Questions                                                                               Average %      %    

I am interested in my work                                                               89            66
I am sufficiently challenged by my work                                           78            57
My manager motivates me to be more effective in my job               66                59
I think that my performance is evaluated fairly                      62                60
Poor performance is dealt with effectively in my team             37                36
I am able to access the right learning and development
  opportunities when I need to                                                          58                58           
There are opportunities for me to develop my career in
  HMRC                                                                                           35                36
I am treated fairly at work                                                            78                75
I feel valued for the work I do                                               62                47
In my job, I am clear what is expected of me                                 84                82
I have an acceptable workload                                                      60                61
I achieve a good balance between my work life and my
   private life                                                                                      68                71              
I feel that HMRC as a whole is managed well                        43                21
I believe that the board has a clear vision for the future
   of HMRC                                                                                      40            24   
When changes are made in HMRC they are
   usually for the better                                                           25                14   
I am proud when I tell others I am part of HMRC                             53                23
I would recommend HMRC as a great place to work                        46                21
I am trusted to carry out my job effectively                                   86                81
My performance is evaluated based on whether I get
   things done, rather than solely follow process                                63                47   
When I talk about my organisation I say “we” rather
   than “they”                                                                                     69                48
Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?          62                57

The table makes fairly depressive reading, although the impression that I have is that staff morale within HMRC has not been brilliant virtually since the merger in 2005.  In this context, perhaps the fact that 34% of staff are not interested in their work and 43% do not feel themselves challenged, reflects such low morale.  However the fact that 40% of staff do not feel that their work is evaluated fairly and 64% feel that HMRC turn a blind eye to poor performance is somewhat more worrying.  The government ought to be concerned that 64% of HMRC staff see no opportunities within HMRC for career development.  This suggests we may be getting back to the problems HMRC faced in the 1970s when they worked out that they had become a free training organisation for the accountancy profession.  The fact that 53% of HMRC staff did not feel valued also strikes me as fairly shocking.

As taxpayers looking for value for money, we should all have a concern that a massive 79% of HMRC staff do not believe that HMRC are managed well, 76% do not think that the Board has a clear vision as to where HMRC is going and 86% of HMRC staff believe that organisational changes usually make the position worse.

When I was young, I sometimes toyed with the idea of spending a few years with the then Inland Revenue but dismissed the thought because at the time it did not make financial sense to do so.  Now that I learn that 77% of HMRC staff are ashamed to say that they work for HMRC and 79% would seek to dissuade a friend from joining, I feel relieved that I never did so.

I hope that the Public Accounts Committee are studying these statistics and will call the management of HMRC to account.  I doubt that a commercial organisation would survive very long if its staff has such a low opinion of the organisation.  Obviously the government cannot simply abolish HMRC but, if its management cannot motivate its staff, the government should not simply shrug its collective shoulders and leave things to muddle along.  I appreciate that most of the top management are fairly new to their jobs and that in a large organisation changes of attitude cannot happen overnight.  Nevertheless, these figures suggest that HMRC is at crisis point.  In these circumstances I find it incredible that last year the Chancellor introduced a Finance Bill that was so long that it had to be bound as two volumes - the first ever time this has happened - and that he is constantly forcing HMRC to cope with major changes in law, such as the new penalty regime and the half thought through introduction of Real Time Information, to a time scale that the most efficient organisation would not even attempt to meet.

Last week’s issue of Taxation magazine awarded the title of Tax Prat of the Year to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.  I am puzzled how they seem to have overlooked Mr Osborne as a far more deserving recipient of that accolade!