Lin Homer, chief executive of HMRC, has been heavily criticised by a committee of MPs for ‘catastrophic leadership failure’ in her previous role as head of the UK Border Agency (UKBA), reportsaccountancy services Harris & Co.
A report from the home affairs select committee is scathing about UKBA’s failure to tackle the backlog of asylum and immigration applications over a six-year period, which it estimates will take 24 years to clear at current rates of progress. Homer was in charge for most of that period.
The report says Homer ‘repeatedly misled the committee over the size of the asylum backlog and still refuses to take responsibility for her failings’.
It was also ‘shocking’ that after five years under Homer’s leadership ‘an organisation that was described at the beginning of the period as being “not fit for purpose” should have improved its performance so little’.
As a result, the committee says MPs were ‘astounded’ at Homer’s promotion to head up HMRC and said they had ‘little confidence in her ability to lead HMRC at what is a challenging time for that organisation".
‘Indeed we note from Ms Homer’s appearance before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in January that 1m letters were left unanswered at HMRC throughout 2012 and that 100,000 of these still remained unanswered on the date of her appearance,’ the report states.
The report paints a picture of ‘chaos’ at UKBA, with a backlog which included 150 boxes of unopened mail and 100,000 unopened letters.
Home affairs committee chair Keith Vaz said: ‘It appears more like the scene of a Whitehall farce then a government agency operating in the 21st century. No sooner is one backlog closed, than four more are discovered.’
Vaz said the committee was ‘astonished’ to discover that MPs and applicants had been writing about cases yet 59,000 applications had not even been loaded onto the agency’s computers.
The committee recommended that in future ‘any failures of this nature should have serious consequences for the individual’s career’, with Parliament given greater powers to veto the promotion of senior civil servants who were found to have performed poorly.
In a letter to Vaz, Homer said she denied the allegations in the strongest possible terms, saying that ‘the suggestion that I deliberately misled the committee and refused to apologise are both untrue and unfair.’ She said the committee’s report covered a period after she left UKBA and that ‘it is therefore wholly inaccurate and unfair to seek to ascribe responsibility to me for matters of concern that occurred long after I had left the agency.’