Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rewarding Failure

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It wouldn't surprise me if you don't recognise Lin Homer (pictured); not many of us know what Whitehall and Holyrood mandarins look like as they tend to prefer to stay in the background and well out of range of the media.

Ms Homer was named by Richard Branson last month as one of the handful of officials at the Department of Transport whom his Virgin Rail team met during 2011 to voice concerns over the bid process for the West Coast rail franchise.
The compensation estimates for the fiasco range from £40m to £100m - all to be paid by the taxpayer.

The Department of Transport has now been described as 'not fit for purpose'.

It is not the first government department labelled 'not fit for purpose' and headed by Ms Homer. She became boss of Britain's immigration service in 2006 and was named chief executive of the new UKBA in 2008.  During her 5-year reign, the UKBA and its predecessor were branded 'not fit for purpose' as millions of pounds were overpaid to asylum seekers and 460,000 untouched asylum claims were allowed to develop into a crippling backlog.

Ms Homer has very recently been moved to run HMRC on a salary of £170,000 complete with a secure pension pot worth more than £1.5m.

Douglas Carswell MP said:

“We seem to be governed by a clique of mandarins who bounce from one highly remunerated job in Whitehall to another and there doesn’t seem to be any proper democratic scrutiny as to whether they’ve done a good job in one role before they get the next one.”

There should be a process for dismissing ineffective civil servants, but these mandarins appear to be untouchable.

How much longer are the general public going to tolerate rewarding failure within government?  There were protests about bankers receiving bonuses for little or no effort, but we keep silent about senior civil servants being quietly promoted although they have left behind a department in chaos. In that Ms Homer appears to excel.



Joe Public said...

As Oscar Wilde might have written:-

To mess up one Department, may be regarded as a misfortune. To mess up both looks like sheer incompetence.

To move her to HMRC is akin to putting a lunatic in charge of the asylum, but with the foreknowledge of this one having a previous track record.

JRB said...

Subrosa – please don’t worry your pretty head over this trivial mater.

The Con-Dem cabinet has this, and no doubt the many other examples of government incompetence, fully covered.

The answer to meeting any financial consequences that might arise are simple –
… they will simply screw more out of those good for nothing scroungers, layabouts and pariahs of society claiming Welfare Benefit. So what if a few kids and single mums are left homeless and the ‘them and us’ gap widens even further.
… then there is the Disabled, always a nice easy target. IDS has decreed that they shall ‘lift up their bed and walk’; and if they don’t then ATOS will remove all their benefits.
… and there is still the pensioner. Perhaps means testing is not such a bad idea. Could save a few quid here.

So what if there is some collateral damage amongst the 'plebs'. Better that than making waves within the ‘establishment’.

Unknown said...

"being quietly promoted although they have left behind a department in chaos. In that Ms Homer appears to excel."

Seems to be doing what she's meant to be doing....

Creating confusion and chaos and undermining people's confidence in institutions that they previously thought of as sound.
Job well done.
Same thing is happening at 'Creative Scotland'.

Elby the Beserk said...

One of the top bods at the Mid-Staffs Morgue was moved on with a seven figure pay-off. Moved on to a top job at the laughably named Care Quality Commission, as a result of said top bod clearly being endowed with formidable skills in caring, having helped to knock of an estimated thousand or more patients at the Morgue.

Can it be coincidence that the CHQ has been dogged with disasters since time immemorial.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Perfect quote from Carswell there, he nailed it. The power wielded by the civil service is at an all-time high. While I wouldn't absolve politicians of their share of the blame, it is very difficult for them to curry favour with the public when - much of the time - they find it impossible to bludgeon their policies through an obstinate brick wall civil service.

English Pensioner said...

Since its inception the Civil Service has believed in the concept of "good all-rounders", the belief that if you can manage one job, you can do any other at the same grade.
When I joined the Civil Service many years ago, all my experience was in electronics, but I was recruited to the grade of "Electrical and Mechanical Engineer". The first post I was offered (which I declined) was inspecting mechanical aircraft parts at what was then Hawker Siddeley. This attitude "You're an engineer, surely you can fill any engineering post" illustrates their thinking with the result that they never have any real expertise at the top except by sheer luck. This won't change because politicians do exactly the same - Justine Greening (failed at transport) moves to Overseas Aid to waste more of our money just as she did at Transport.

Demetrius said...

Homer? Doh!!!

Have you seen The Slog today about Virginia Bottomley and her cousin Jeremy Hunt?

Brian said...

There have always been people who have risen without trace in organisations because their face fitted. Before diversity took hold in HR, an even higher percentage were white men.
If one is in the in-crowd, moving jobs frequently is viewed positively as experience-broadening and upwardly ambitious. If one's face doesn't fit,interviewers regard changing jobs as a weakness prompted by inability to do the job well or get along with colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Hate to say it, but it is Jobs for the Girls in play.

Have to balance the social / sexual / colour etc order.

Anonymous said...

When I studied my Economics, the Treasury had no Economist, didn't do double entry bookkeeping and thus he had no clue where the money came from or where it went.

I speak as someone with close family members in or were in high(ish) positions within the two relevant Ministeries / Depts.

Linguists and international lawyers the were/are.

Chaps can do it, you know?

Oldsoul_NotQuite said...

Umm don't u think this is a rather muck-raking post, ie you don't know what she has done in any of her jobs, you just repeat the views of others that her departments have failed. Even if we are to accept that she personally has failed, maybe it's worth reflecting on whether you can get someone with the skills to manage a large complex and political org for £170k a year.

Dr Rohen Kapur said...

She looks like the rather Clipboard nazi type.

Joe PUblics comment made me laugh

subrosa said...

There's far too much of this going on Joe. Ms Homer is not the first by any means to have been moved sideways.

subrosa said...

Ah right then JRB, I'll relax as government is in safe hands. :)

subrosa said...

Ah, no surprises then Lord Monty. Thanks for the link.

subrosa said...

Ah yes Elby, I think I wrote about her at the time.

I hesitate to give you an answer to your question.

subrosa said...

One of my parents was in the civil service Dick. He was so relieved to retire as he had watched the actions of his colleagues/superiors for many years.

'Always watch for the men in the hand-made suits' was his advice to me when I had associations with certain government departments many years ago. They were the ones who made the decisions, not the front people.

subrosa said...

That attitude hasn't changed EP and I think perhaps it's become worse in recent years.

But you're right because politicians are put into posts which have no relevance to their skills.

subrosa said...

No Demetrius, but I'm off to read it now.

subrosa said...

An excellent assessment Brian. Perhaps I may be more direct and say the 'yes' folk and the 'no' folk system still goes on.

subrosa said...

Jings Lupus, yes of course. Need all the boxes ticked...

Didn't do double entry book-keeping? No wonder they still don't understand the fundamentals of profit and loss.

subrosa said...

Not quite Old Soul, there were official reports about the Immigration Service when she was in post.

She was on £250,000 at the UKBA and has taken a reduced salary to moved to HMRC - although her pension plan has remained intact.

I know several business people who run businesses for far less salary than £170,000. No business is without its complexities.

subrosa said...

Of course she'd undertaken the CP courses Rohen.

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