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MPs launch attack on HMRC Chief Executive

Lin Homer’s ability to lead HMRC has been questioned by MPs on the Commons home affairs committee, who have accused her of trying to ‘evade responsibility for her failings’ as chief executive of the UK Border Agency between August 2005 and January 2010. But Homer has denied ‘in the strongest terms’ that she repeatedly misled the committee over the asylum backlog, and exchequer secretary David Gauke has defended her record at HMRC.

Home Affairs Committee Chairman Keith Vaz MP said:
“For six years, the committee was misled by UKBA chiefs about the agency’s unacceptable performance. It appears more like the scene of a Whitehall farce than a government agency operating in the 21st century,” he said.

Vaz added that the current UKBA backlog stands at the population of Iceland (which is approximately 319,000) and will take 24 years to clear.

The report said the committee had been supplied with incorrect data by the agency for six years and repeatedly misled by Homer.

After documenting the accumulation of unopened letters and administrative backlogs at UKBA, one section of the report noted that after she moved to HMRC, 1m letters were also left unanswered there throughout 2012.

The report argued that Parliament select committees should be able to block the promotions of senior civil servants who had demonstrated "catastrophic leadership" failures.

"We recommend that in future any failures of this nature should have serious consequences for the individual’s career," the MPs argued.

Homer was appointed chief executive and permanent secretary at HMRC in January 2012, after a period as permanent secretary at the Department for Transport. Her appointment ‘highlights the need for parliament to have a stronger role in the appointment of top civil servants,’ according to the home affairs committee.

However, an HMRC spokesman said today that under Homer’s leadership the department was ‘bringing in record extra compliance revenues and likely to beat its targets this year by £1bn, answering more than 90% of calls against 66% when Lin joined, and turning 85% of post around in 15 days against 67% when she joined’.

Exchequer secretary David Gauke said:
‘She is a highly effective chief executive and the right person to lead HMRC.’

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