You may have read or heard about the National Audit Office's criticism of the DWP's contract with Atos. You may even have heard of Tom Greatrex MP who asked the NAO to investigate. But then again, the story passed most people by. More interesting things have been happening. So read the story in the Independent or on the BBC's website. What the criticism boils down to is that performance targets are set too low, there are no proper checks on the performance data that Atos submits, and the company isn't penalised adequately for poor performance.
Greatrex points out that the contract costs us £112m a year, but appeals cost a further £60m. Yet the NAO's Amyas Morse admits that they don't know whether changes to the tests Atos carries out are necessary because they don't routinely look at the decisions of the tribunals. This laid-back admission is troubling, especially since official figures show that 40% of appeals are upheld, rising to 70% when the appellant is accompanied by someone like a CAB advisor. You would expect, would you not, that the civil servants would want to know why. Or that the politicians might be interested. Instead, it's taken a lot of pressure to get any information, because of that well-worn excuse "commercial confidentiality". Iain Duncan Smith will be content that all the blame is heaped on Atos rather than on the government. The company is rewarded with more huge contracts.
This situation can only get worse, unless the government has the courage to re-examine the whole business of outsourcing. And there's no sign of that.