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Three-quarters of civil service pension records are wrong or missing

By DPF Admin11th February 2016August 6th, 2019Area Updates, Latest News, Northern Updates, Southern Updates

More than three-quarters of civil service pension records – 1.25m – are incomplete or incorrect, according to a damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the problems at MyCSP, the outsourced civil service pension scheme, which it says have caused hardship and distress to many pensioners.

The central government watchdog says MyCSP, which took over paying civil service pensions in September 2014, still hasn’t been able to pull together accurate data for 77% of the 1.5 million current and former public sector employees who are members of the scheme. The inaccurate data should not affect pension payments, but prolongs the time necessary to issue quotations and determine new pensions, says the NAO report, which also highlights problems at MyCSP in paying thousands of civil service pensions. In September 2014, 14,703 pensioners who lived overseas were paid their pensions up to seven days late and 99 were not paid at all that month.

The NAO says MyCSP, which is 24% owned by the government, 25% by its employees through a trust and 51% by private company Equiniti, is still failing to provide timely, accurate information to members and employers. The report highlights inadequate staffing levels at MyCSP and a failure to cope with increased calls and emails. Most members have not been given an annual benefit statement for more than a year and the report catalogues a list of holdups and errors in calculating and paying civil service pensions. By January 2015, it says, a backlog of 22,000 urgent cases had built up.

Before 2011, civil service pensions were managed by the government’s in-house pension body, with calculations and payments made by Capita. In 2011, MyCSP became the biggest public sector body to spin out from central government as a mutual venture. At the time, then-Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said that as a mutual, MyCSP would deliver better services for its pension scheme members. “We are transforming a neglected back-office operation into a new competitive and responsible business – the rest of the world is watching,” he said.

On 18 September 2014, MyCSP also took over calculating and paying pensions, prompting a spate of complaints from pensioners who found their payments delayed. The NAO says MyCSP’s pension administration system was not fully functional at the point of migration and the organisation could not cope with the increased volume of calls following the migration in September 2014, and up until March 2015. During this time, 99,400 calls were abandoned before being answered.

The report highlights the significant inconvenience and distress caused to members who had not received their payments as usual or who were having difficulty in contacting MyCSP; some reported experiencing serious problems and financial hardship.

The NAO says continuing problems are being caused by two issues: unreliable data about members being supplied to MyCSP by employers and a failure by the Cabinet Office to set up adequate oversight.

The report says the Cabinet Office has a number of different roles in relation to MyCSP. It is leading the reform of civil service pensions. It is a shareholder and has a representative on the MyCSP board, but it is also both a customer and the contract manager of MyCSP on behalf of the civil service.

Most damningly, the NAO says no one in the Cabinet Office has a view or control of the overall system and when it set up MyCSP as a mutual joint venture, it had no means of tracking the benefits. Instead of measuring whether employers and members are satisfied with its performance, the Cabinet Office relies instead on MyCSP’s own performance reporting and surveys of employer and member satisfaction. These were suspended after migration but restarted from June 2015.

David Penman, general secretary of the senior civil service union the FDA said civil servants had endured a chronic level of service that would be utterly unacceptable in the private sector. “Our members have endured delays in payments of pension; inaccuracies in statements, quotes and payments and unanswered calls, letters and emails,” he said. The FDA supports the NAO’s recommendations, particularly prioritising a thorough data cleansing exercise, which Penman described as “crucial to members getting the pension they have saved for.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the mutualisation of MyCSP had, from the start, been a “textbook case” in how not to reform public services.

Maude said on Wednesday that he is leaving frontline politics for private sector and not-for-profit roles.

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