Hatchet job for taxman’s boss over borders backlog

MPs have mounted an unusually savage attack on an individual civil servant, targeting HM Revenue and Customs' chief executive Lin Homer for damning criticism.

The Commons' home affairs committee said it was "astounded" Homer had been promoted to the job after presiding over "shocking" failings at the UK Border Agency (UKBA) for five years.

Its report into the ongoing failures at the agency tasked with managing Britain's borders revealed its problems are far deeper than previously expected.

It has established four new types of backlog, revealed the UKBA had been supplying it with inaccurate statistics for six years and revealed there could therefore be thousands of people in the UK whose applications remain in the closed archives but whom the agency have not been able to trace.

Select committee reports are often scathing about struggling government departments or agencies, but rarely turn their fire on individual civil servants.

MPs chose to make an exception for Homer, who refused to apologise for providing them with inaccurate information.

"Lin Homer, who was in charge of the agency for much of the period in question, has repeatedly misled the committee over the size of the asylum backlog and still refuses to take responsibility for her failings," MPs stated in their report.

"This committee has little confidence in her ability to run any government department and her appointment to head up HMRC highlights the need for parliament to have a stronger role in the appointment of top civil servants."

MPs have been left wondering whether there are even more backlogs, lurking as yet unseen in the agency's offices.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said MPs were "astonished" to discover that 59,000 applications had not even been loaded on to the UKBA's computers. The total number of backlogged cases now stands at 312,726, a decline of just four per cent in three months.

"Successive UKBA chief executives have presided over chaos including 150 boxes of unopened mail, 100,000 unopened letters and yet another effective amnesty for thousands due to calamitous inefficiency," Vaz 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 then a government agency operating in the 21st century."