Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
12 OCTOBER 2005
Q80 Mr Mudie: Mr Varney, with a great
deal of respect, this is a family in hardship because of you claiming
back overpaymentsand they are disputing it. You are asked
to stop the repayments until the dispute is settled. That does
not need a computer system. That needs a decision from someone
in the department with regard to overpayments, for suspension
where there is a dispute and there is hardship. Is there a facility
outside this computer system to allow that to happen?
Mr Varney: There is. We are considering
at this moment
Q81 Mr Mudie: No.
Mr Varney: Could I please
Q82 Mr Mudie: That is
Mr Varney: Either I am allowed
Q83 Mr Mudie: You say you are considering.
Mr Varney: If you want a conversation
Q84 Mr Mudie: I have asked you a
question: Is it happening?
Mr Varney: And I am trying to
Mr Mudie: Is there a suspension?
Q85 Chairman: Come on, let us have
Mr Varney: We are not currently
able to do it with the computer. We are trying to establish a
process of manual intervention which does not end up with the
same set of issues we have had before on manual interventions
which create more problems than they solve. It is not a case of
being complacent. I have spent a lot of time on this issue, not
surprisingly. As I have said to you, it is an important part of
our business and we want to get it right. We have been putting
advice as to what the implications are of manual interventions.
Manual interventions are not without risk, as I have said.
Q86 Mr Mudie: When did you tell the
Minister about them?
Mr Varney: We have had a series
of correspondence with the Minister, exploring, going back in
to see what the computer system can do, trying to bring in specialists
to see what we could do with the computer system. The last thing
I want to do is hazard the computer system, to lose the ground
we have gained in the last 12 months in terms of its stability.
Q87 Mr Mudie: I understand Mr Gray
to say that was going to take 12 months.
Mr Varney: Yes.
Q88 Mr Mudie: You are telling this Committee
that something asked on 26 May by the Minister, something asked
and told to Parliament the following month by the same Minister,
about easing hardship to poor individuals/families will not be
implemented a year later.
Chairman: We are talking about whether
we can find a manual workaround which we can introduce which will
not have adverse consequences.
Q89 Mr Mudie: I understand that but
that is technical stuff for a committee. A family out there who
are in dispute with you and are in hardship you cannot manually
and will not manually stop the repayments.
Mr Varney: We can deal with hardship.
We have provision to deal with hardship.
Miss Walker: Yes. In cases of
Q90 Mr Mudie: That is what the Minister
Miss Walker: In cases of hardship
we already are able to restore the full amount of the entitlement
whether or not there is a dispute about the overpayment and to
agree extended terms for the repayment.
Q91 Mr Mudie: When did that take
Miss Walker: That has always been
Q92 Mr Mudie: Why did the Minister
Miss Walker: I think the question
is broader, about suspending recovery of all the disputed overpayments,
whether or not there is actual hardship.
Q93 Mr Mudie: No, she specifically
Miss Walker: In that case, that
facility is already available.
Q94 Mr Mudie: Mr Varney has already
demonstrated his feelings about the Ombudsman. But the Ombudsman
made 12 recommendations in her special report on tax credits.
Which of the 12 have not been accepted?
Mr Varney: I have not made my
feelings clear about the Ombudsman. I have been working with her
and with her office to improve the delivery of new tax credits,
which is actually a shared objective. There is one that has not
been accepted, which is the recommendation in terms of the amnesty
which she has made.
Q95 Mr Mudie: Recommendation 10.
Mr Varney: Yes, 10.
Q96 Mr Mudie: You have not accepted
11, I presume. Statutory test.
Mr Varney: We have been asked
to give consideration to it.
Q97 Mr Mudie: You are still considering
Mr Varney: We are still considering
Q98 Mr Mudie: And 12, a different
model. Are you just looking at them now?
Mr Varney: No, I am not just looking
at them now but I want to make sure. I could also say you are
just looking at them now: you are doing the same as me.
Q99 Mr Mudie: No, no.
Mr Varney: I am trying to make
sure we are talking about the same clause and the same recommendations.
I do not carry them in my head.