Cash woes hold back National Insurance IT improvements
Old-school data storage slows service
A National Audit Office report says that limited money for IT is hampering improvements to the administration of National Insurance.
The report, published on 30 June, says that HM Revenue and Customs' Contributions Office, which maintains personal records on the National Insurance (NI) database, would like to make significant improvements but is constrained by a lack of funding.
"The selection criteria across HMRC for IT projects have become more stringent and there is no funding in 2010-11 for routine improvements," says the NAO's report on HMRC's use of resources to administer NI since 2006-07.
It says that although the Contributions Office makes extensive use of IT to carry out its work, it does not always have "up-to-date functionality".
One example given in the report is that Contributions Office staff have to type in the whole address on letters to the public because the IT system has no postcode-based search link. Key information sometimes has to be retrieved through searches of paper files and microfiches.
These processes are more time-consuming and less successful than an electronic search, but HMRC will only fund IT improvements if they are related to the implementation of legislation.
"Although there are presently very limited funds available for major IT enhancements, HMRC should consider how individual administrative procedures might undergo a more fundamental change over the longer term to achieve optimum efficiency," the report recommends.
"It should also consider the opportunities for reducing incorrect or incomplete incoming data and for exerting greater control of how work is received, with special attention to further reducing the use of more costly paper based processes."
The document also provides an update on the fluctuating service provided by NI telephone helplines since its previous report in January.
In 2007‑08, the department answered 96 per cent of calls on NI matters compared with 61 per cent in 2008-09, well below industry best practice benchmarks. This increased in 2009-10, but only to 73 per cent.
However, the quality of advice provided to callers by the National Insurance contact centre was found to have exceeded its target performance in recent years. In 2009-10 96.5 per cent of calls met the standard of advice required and followed security procedures, compared with a target performance of 89 per cent.
The report says this is partly due to the "considerable experience" of contact centre staff.
Chris Pennell, principal analyst at Kable, said: "HMRC is caught between a rock and a hard place. It cannot justify extra funding for ICT unless it can deliver savings or improved productivity, but it is fast reaching the apogee of what can be achieved through improvements to working practices alone.
"Certainly, without further investment into management reporting and data processing tools, the department will struggle to deliver on improvements to revenue collection and tackling tax evasion."
This article was originally published at Kable.
Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Socialists spend other peoples money, until is runs out, then grow state debt!!!
WTF, are you stupid? Do you have no understanding of money?
The army and any other body of people employed by the government are paid from tax revenue and worse still, growing state debt; so it is damned absurd to justify their employment because they pay tax and NI, when it is on a Tax and debt funded salary, the only justification is if they help the local private economy enough to justify their existence!
Read "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith (yes It's a long read). Adam Smith eventually describes in detail that excessive spending on luxuries, like government, will reduce the prosperity of a country; so feel very ashamed for your socialist tripe.
Some government aids prosperity, but beyond that point, it harms prosperity, and eventually becomes unsustainable! Austrian and Hungarian economics have this nailed.
'state revenue' collection will decline anyway, until government is shrunk enough, enough corporate undead are killed off, and enough private employment growth occurs _in the UK_.
The current rabble in government are better than Labour in some respects, but being the career corporate socialists that they all are, they still haven't bit the bullet and taken a hatchet, with the necessary effort, to all the areas of government which need to be cut, yes including The Welfare State, foreign aid, and corporate bailouts. Sorry state pensioners, you are stuffed!
If this is not tackled, along with localisation measures and less regulation, then the current deflationary period and following inflationary period here will likely be far more vicious, maybe even become a Greater Depression!
Employ all the soon-to-be-out-of-work public sector people in the records dept., massively panellising the search and speeding it up no end :-) No need to expensive, late, big-IT at all.
....replace those with PPE degrees
Shock! Horror! You are practicing discrimination! Wash your mouth out you boundah!
You have a choice. Not much of one I grant you. But you do have a choice....
If you fill the job centres with peeps who have spent, nay wasted, 3 years of their life achieving a low grade and totally useless degree in meedja studies then keeping them off the streets by giving them a low level executive position (e.g. tea sampler) in HMRC is surely preferable to putting them back on the street corners which they would have occupied prior to their elevation to having a degree? Let us not forget that the army presently engaged by HMRC do actually pay tax and NI (obviously on income which was unearnedd as far as the UK economy is concerned), whereas the job centre existence means that the state get to pay your NI forevermore and no contribution is made to the welfare system (hang on, what am I saying here...?).
There are only so many jobs out there where the job holder has to learn "do you want fries with that Sir?" as the introductory line when dealing with clients.
And where's the Peter Mandelson icon then?