Monday, 21 May 2012

The corruption at the heart of our political system

Last week saw the (welcome) news that the government had decided to terminate the "welfare-to-work" contract of A4e due to the on-going investigation into possible (read: almost certain) fraud at A4e whereby (allegedly) staff claimed and received money from the taxpayer from putting people into jobs which didn't exist.

Of course, A4e still has other contracts worth millions of pounds a year with the government. Labour has demanded that the government publish the details of these contracts, though, given that Labour signed those contracts in the first place, they should already know the details.

Now, the former boss of A4e, Emma Harrison, who resigned ahead of the fraud probe, was, until February, the government's 'family champion' - a position to which she was appointed by one David Cameron.

In her position as family champion she advised the government about how to get unemployed people into work and how to deal with "troubled families".

As an aside, it's worth considering what the government considers a "troubled family". According to David Cameron it's a family which matches five of the following seven criteria:
a) no parent in work
b) poor quality housing,
c) no parent with qualifications,
d) mother with mental health problems
e) one parent with longstanding disability/illness
f) family has low income,
g) Family cannot afford some food/clothing items
Except Mr Cameron prefers to refer to families like that as "neighbours from hell" and part of "a culture of disruption and irresponsibility".

Anyway, Emma Harrison and A4e highlight the rampant corruption which exists within our political system.  Not the corruption which most people think of - however immoral, an MP fiddling expenses for a £2,000 gardening bill is rather small in the grand scheme of things - but real corruption which destroys lives and robs the taxpayer of millions of pounds a year.

See, here's how it goes. Emma Harrison starts a company to take advantage of government contracts to get unemployed Sheffield steel workers into new jobs. Her company does well and gets more and more contracts and she ends up advising the government on how to deal with unemployed people. And, I'll be careful with what I say here so as to avoid libel, someone in a position like Emma Harrison, someone who influences government policy and who owns or has connections with a company which profits from government policy, ever so coincidentally recommends that the government adopt policy which would mean more contracts which their company would be well placed to win.

Now, there's nothing illegal in this. After all, these people aren't politicians, there's no requirement for them not to have a conflict of interest.

However, what it is is utterly immoral and corrupt. Legal? Yes. But that doesn't make it right.

And the problem is that this corruption extends throughout our political system. And, in addition to robbing the taxpayer (legally I must stress) it also has a horrific impact on the lives of innocent people. A4e and the welfare-to-work scheme, for example, bullied sick and disabled people into taking mandatory unpaid placements - one after another, after another, without ever getting an actual job out of it, and regardless of how stressful or meaningless the work experience is.

But the biggest and most shocking example is that of Atos and Unum. Two companies whose directors have sat on the committees which drew up government policy on the sick and disabled ever since the early 1990s. They helped draw up the draconian welfare policies that have so utterly failed our sick and disabled people today - a system where a terminally ill cancer patient is declared "fit for work".

And their companies have profited handsomely from those policies. Atos conducts "work capability assessments" for the government - and is paid tens of millions of pounds a year to do so. And, thanks to already having government contracts such as the capability assessments (which actually make the company a loss), it was able to win other contracts - such as the incredibly profitable contract to provide IT for the 2012 Olympics. Unum, of course, being what has been described by US officials as an "outlaw company" which specialises in flogging disability insurance to people who face being let down by a broken welfare system, also quite happily profits from the government's welfare policies.

And, in fact, it was Unum which persuaded the government to buy into the idea that the only thing preventing all sick and disabled people from being able to work is them having the "wrong" mental attitude.

And that's just the welfare system. This legal corruption extends throughout the rest of our political system.

One example of these vested interests driving policy can be found in local government. In any issue of Private Eye the front few pages are dedicated to the abundant examples of, mostly legal, misspending of public money - and usually to the benefit of one company or another which happens to have "friends" in the right places. Another famed example is the Ministry of Defence where various companies have managed to extort billions of pounds out of the public purse over the decades - usually for rubbish equipment delivered horrendously late over-budget.

There's not really any moral to this blogpost - or any call to action in it. Or even any expletives to mark how disgusting and repugnant I find the situation. Because, at the end of the day, this is something that has been going on since long before I was born and which will probably be going on long after I am dead. Wonderful, isn't it?


  1. Yep.

    Again, I agree with your post.

    I have worked for around 15 years in the business of helping people back to work, or providing them with the skills that will help them do that for themselves.

    At the beginning it was a job that was genuinely rewarding, as the aims were to actually get people into work that they were fit for, suitable for and reasonably happy in.

    Now it is a case of achieving targets, fulfilling profiles, or whatever the latest jargon is. It is horrible work, and I have been constantly at loggerheads with management over the ethics of what they are doing. I have no idea what the future is.

    But the whole business of getting people back to work has become a farce, not least because there are so few jobs, but mainly because it is a case of any result is a result... and even if the job only lasts a day, count it. This was well under way before the coalition government took power.

    There is evidence that people from jobcentres and private providers are fiddling figures, even more than they did before, to obtain results, and in some cases, jobcentres are using ridiculous excuses to take people off benefits (late for appointments) in order to reduce their costs. We can't get them into jobs, but we can take them off our figures for a few weeks.

    The companies you mention are despicable. You will know, I'm sure, from my blog that I have supported the Commonwealth Games. I wouldn't have wanted them in Scotland (these things always cost more than they bring in) but they were wished upon us by Labour (just as the Olympics were wished on you). However, I recently discovered that Atos are sponsoring them. From that point any support for the games has vanished. I want nothing to do with them.

    As you say, away from welfare, the MoD is a joke. The latest story to emerge from them is that in a rush to follow Osborne's diktat that they must save money, they made thousands of people redundant, but no one in the highly paid management team thought that some analysis of need should be done. Now they discover that many of the people... over a thousand... that they paid redundancy money to, will actually have to be re-employed, because their skills are NOT redundant. Massive cost. Can't wait to see what Private Eye makes of that! (I know that staffing is outside the remit of Hammond or his ministers, but surely the man needs to get a grip of his senior staff. They are becoming a bigger laughing stock than the Home Office, and that's hard work.)

    Corrupt and incompetent would seem to be the adjectives that best describe the British government and its agencies and contractors.

  2. And they call us,Benefit Scrounging Scum.As the Bible Says,seeing as both IDS and Cameron claim to be good Christians.

    "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

    Matthew 7:5

    Seems Apt.

  3. Oversight: Baroness Warsi admits breaching guidelines by failing to declare rent .

    It seems the Elite make oversights,while the poor commit fraud.

  4. Check out the book : "THE PRIME MINISTER"

    The LINK is :

  5. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.


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