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HMRC says record internal fraud no cause for alarm

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15th Oct 2008
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According to a report in last weekend's Observer, nine staff at HMRC have been dismissed with criminal convictions for embezzling the department of a record £2.3 million pounds in the last year. This was revealed following a request under the Freedom of Information act, which also confirmed a further five staff are still under internal investigation. New evidence shows fraud at the department has risen by a third over the past year.

Newly appointed HMRC financial secretary Stephen Timms has yet to issue a statement over the staff dismissals, one of which relates to false expenses claims of over £220,000 for “holidays.”

Conservative shadow exchequer secretary David Gauke demanded a full departmental investigation, but a spokesperson for HMRC’s Law Enforcement department said the party’s stance was “alarmist,” attributing the problem to “a few bad eggs”.

The spokesperson went on to say that at least in one instance the fraud involved a senior member of staff but that undisclosed preventative measures had since been put in place.

The exact details of the various fraud cases remains unknown, however David Gauke said that coupled with the missing data scandal, it amounts to a damning, double blow for confidence in the department

“HMRC have access to huge amounts of very confidential information and the potential to misuse this is huge,” he said. “The fact that fraud in the department has risen 30% in the last year and they are saying we are alarmist doesn’t suggest they are taking this seriously enough.”

Forensic accounting specialist David Winch called for perspective on the matter.

“The increased number of prosecutions may be a reflection of increased dishonesty by employees, but could equally well be a reflection of better detection of irregularities,” he said.

Nevertheless, Winch also pointed out that HMRC is reluctant to give the convictions of its own staff the same publicity as when it prosecutes members of the public. A glance at the website shows this to be the case.

HMRC employs over 80,000 people and was recently found responsible for over 50% of fraud across the 24 government departments.

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By User deleted
17th Oct 2008 14:34

Glass Houses
Quite surprising to see Members of Parliament commenting on this sort of thing...

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By Jack the Lad
17th Oct 2008 13:10

Is it me?!
I believe that we have a right to know the whos, whys, whats, and wherefores both under the Public Information Act and morally. HMRC are a public service, paid by us as taxpayers ( please don't call me a "customer" ! ) , aren't they, so surely we are entitled to know the details of the fraud against us ? Or am I being naive in believing that they are not a secret service, and we are entitled to full disclosure ?

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