The department of Work and Pensions has, for the last 24 years, managed to bollox up the benefits system to such a large degree that last year, it managed to lose £3.2b and underpay £1.3b.
What is this? Is this what the taxpayer is working his nuts off for? that you cannot manage a benefits system? If the problem is complexity, then simplify it but then, these bloody governments cannot resist tinkering with the tax system. So the cost of a massively complex benefits and tax system, besides the usual economic costs, is this.
Unbelievable. This beast must be starved to death. More austerity and less taxes. Only then will this incompetent behemoth start looking at its own internal efficiencies.
Department for Work and Pensions accounts show £3.2bn lost in overpayments and £13bn underpaid
The Whitehall spending auditor has declined to sign off in full the accounts of the Department for Work and Pensions for the 24th year running, because of the extent of fraud and error in the benefits system.
Some £3.2bn is thought to have been lost through overpayments in 2011/12. Underpayments came to an estimated £1.3bn.
Auditor general Amyas Morse said fraud and error was "unacceptably high" and qualified his opinion of the DWP's accounts, the 24th year consecutive year this has been the case for the department and its benefits-handling predecessors.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the public accounts committee, said the DWP had failed to get a grip on fraud and error despite assurances that it would do so. "This department has the biggest budget in Whitehall and its inability, 24 years in a row, to administer its spending properly is just unacceptable," she said.
"With fraud and error of £4.5bn in 2011-12, roughly the same as in previous years, huge sums of money are being lost to the public purse that could have been spent on our schools and hospitals.
"Government spending is at its tightest for over 50 years and it simply can't afford to carry on like this."
She said the government was relying on the forthcoming introduction of the universal credit to "get its house in order" but that the transition to the new benefit was "full of risks" and potentially off-schedule.
"The department has got to get a grip on fraud and error now. Despite its assurances to my committee, it has not done so and it must do better," she said.
Morse said: "The level of fraud and error in the welfare system remains unacceptably high.
"I recognise, however, the difficulty of administering in a cost-effective way a benefits system of such complexity.
"The department should use the development of universal credit as an opportunity to enhance its processes to demonstrate what a modern, effective and joined-up benefits system will look like.
"In refreshing its approach to reducing fraud and error, the department needs to continue to improve its understanding of the root causes of fraud and error."
The auditor general's qualified opinion did not apply to the state pension, which has a much lower level of fraud and error, with £100m of overpayments and £150m of underpayments last year.
But he did also qualify his opinion of the separate social fund account – which includes cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, Sure Start maternity grants, crisis loans and community care grants – because of the extent of errors.
That account has now been qualified for nine years running.
Morse said the DWP had made "improvements" in some areas regarding the social fund but added that it "must build on these improvements if it is fully to resolve the regularity and debt issues".