A quick tale of an award winning government agency for you. I haven't mentioned the Child Support Agency for a time and yet incredibly it has just won an award. Of sorts. The Child Support Agency has been condemned by MPs as “one of the greatest public administration disasters of all time”. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, in a world of NHS IT systems and the Home Office, is truly a remarkable achievement. So how have they won this dubious accolade? Well, I will run you through just a few of its acts of incompetence to demonstrate:
The Public Accounts Committee said that parents with caring responsibilities could be losing £520 a year in maintenance payments because of the agency’s many failures. It was also noted that £2 billion, or 60 per cent of the money owed, was now “uncollectible”. The Department for Work and Pensions managed to spend paid £91 million on consultants in only three years, yet could only account for a third of it. Yes you read that right - they could only account for a third of it! After 13 years, about 250,000 absent parents owe maintenance, of whom 127,000 have paid nothing to support their children. Of the 19,000 cases being pursued, in 2005-06 only 15 people were given jail terms for failing to pay maintenance. A truly remarkable agency. Let’s hope the new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC) that will replace the CSA in 2008 will do a better job. After all, it cost £850m to reform the CSA to get to CMEC in the first place.