The DWP's 'fortress mentality'

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has issued its latest report into the implementation of Universal Credit.    The Committee comments that

“Our ability to scrutinise UC implementation was seriously impeded by DWP failing to inform us of the serious problems it was experiencing. … It is not acceptable for Ministers to provide information about changes to major policy implementation only when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held to account in a public select committee oral evidence session. DWP should set out how it will improve the frankness, accuracy and timeliness of the information it provides to us, to ensure that it meets required levels of transparency, and  that we are not hampered in trying to carry out our formal scrutiny role effectively. “

If anything, this is generous.  The Committee commented that “The IT problems were only revealed when the National Audit Office (NAO) reported on progress with UC implementation in September 2013, although the Government had known about them for at least 18 months before this. ”  The NAO was particularly critical of the “fortress mentality” at the DWP, which sealed off staff from external scrutiny and alternative approaches.  It had been reported that the Treasury had taken measures about the problems in September 2011, at least two years previously; all the subsequent claims that the scheme was going swimmingly were misrepresentations.   Duncan Smith’s defence:  “I do not have to tell the Committee everything that is happening in the Department …”

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