Four executives at Adam Smith International step down amid government pressure over misconductThe founders of Adam Smith International (ASI), one of the biggest UK foreign aid contractors, have stepped down after the government froze future contracts with the firm over questions about its ethical integrity.The London-based consultancy, which has come under pressure from the Department for International Development (DfID) amid concerns about “culture and behaviour”, announced a restructuring of its top team. Continue reading...
As concerns are raised over development firm Adam Smith International, former minister warns that Tory critics who want budgets cut are ‘scenting blood’The government has frozen future contracts with a firm entrusted with £268m of development cash after a scathing report from MPs on the company’s “inappropriate” conduct.The report released on Sunday censures Adam Smith International (ASI) for acting with a “serious lack of judgement”, making up testimonials for its aid delivery, and pressuring people to give glowing responses by implying their funding could otherwise be cut. Continue reading...
США в рамках двухлетней программы финансирования консалтинговых услуг для реформирования украинской таможни предоставят $4 млн для привлечения международных советников, которые помогут внедрить в Украине сервис высокого мирового качества, сообщил министр финансов Александр Данилюк.
Министр финансов Украина Наталия Яресько подтверждает планы передачи ряда таможен на западной границе страны в управление специализированным иностранным компаниям и сообщает о подготовке тендерной документации для их отбора.
Тендер по отбору специализированных иностранных компаний для параллельного управления рядом таможен будет объявлен в ближайшее время, подготовка его технических условий завершается, сообщила министр финансов Наталия Яресько на встрече с парламентской фракций "Самопомич" 24 ноября.
Украина планирует победить коррупцию на своих таможенных терминалах, передав их под управление иностранным компаниям, пишет Коммерсантъ. Это вынужденная мера: по официальным оценкам, украинская казна не получает около 1.7 миллионов долларов ежегодно из-за того, что на терминалах брокеры оформление происходит с нарушениями - либо просто незаконно. Говорят об «окнах» на границах, существующих не один год - где, к примеру, машину из Европы можно оформить как транзит и не регистрировать её вообще. Проблема носит массовый характер, а приведение фискальной отчетности к приемлемым показателям является одним из обязательных условий предоставления следующего транша МВФ. Одновременно, в самой таможенной службе происходит внутренняя борьба - в сентябре был уволен Константин Ликарчук, таможенный заместитель главы Государственной фискальной службы, находившийся в прямом конфликте с её руководителем, Романом Насировым. В этой ситуации отдать управление терминалами в руки независимой стороны кажется продуктивным решением. ГФС подготовит критерии отбора компаний для управления украинскими таможнями и объявит о начале конкурса на следующей неделе: «Мы уже обратились к нашим иностранным коллегам помочь нам разработать очень прозрачные условия для тендера, чтобы этот тендер был понятный, прозрачный, чтобы в нем принимали участие те компании, которые лучшие, которые мы можем привлечь к нашему процессу... К концу следующей недели», - сообщает о словах Насирова РБК-Украина. Первыми под новую программу попадут таможни Закарпатья, Волынской, Черновицкой и Львовской областей. За право осуществлять деятельность таможенного брокера сейчас соревнуются компании из Швейцарии, Германии и Великобритании. Отдельно Роман Насиров отметил в разговоре с изданием две английские компании: Crown Agents и Adam Smith International. С обеими компаниями украинское правительство уже ранее имело дело. При посредничестве Crown Agents Министерство здравоохранения планирует сейчас закупать иностранные лекарства, а ASI уже консультировало правительство по вопросам борьбы с коррупцией. Более того, иностранец может стать и новым главой таможенной части ГФС, сообщил неназванный источник Интерфакс-Украина в правительстве страны (законодательство этого не запрещает). Сообщается, что эксперимент по передаче контроля за таможней на аутсорсинг должен продлиться полтора года. В случае удачи на западной границе, под эксперимент могут попасть и все остальные таможни страны. Однако возможность полного перекрытия «окон» вызывает у экспертов сомнения в связи с тем, что спрос на более дешевую контрабанду имеет социальный характер.
Crown Agents и Adam Smith International претендуют на предоставление услуг по управлению таможнями - глава ГФС Насиров
Компании Crown Agents и Adam Smith International претендуют сегодня на оказание украинскому правительству услуг по управлению украинскими таможнями, сообщил глава Государственной фискальной службы (ГФС) Украины Роман Насиров на пресс-конференции в пятницу.
Одномоторный самолет Piper PA-46 потерпел крушение неподалеку от аэропорта Smith International в городе Лаббок в штате Техас. При заходе на посадку он врезался в 248-метровую вышку и обрушил ее, прервав вещание местного телевидения.
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune "Oh, that my enemy would write a book," goes the old wish, coined by someone who knew there is no better way to expose fools than through their own words. It's an idea that deserves consideration from the college students and faculty unhappy with their schools' choice in commencement speakers.The usual response to such invitations is to demand that they be revoked. This year, critics cowed Brandeis into yanking its offer to anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Outrage at Rutgers prompted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to withdraw, and when howls when up at Smith, International...
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban attack against a popular Kabul restaurant killed 21 people, officials said Saturday, in the deadliest attack against foreign civilians since the war began nearly 13 years ago. The dead from Friday's assault against La Taverna du Liban included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, all civilians, in an attack that could mark a pivot point for international organizations operating in Kabul. It came as security has been deteriorating and apprehension has been growing among Afghans over the future security of their country as U.S.-led foreign forces prepare for a final withdrawal at the end of the year. Those killed included two U.S. citizens working for the American University of Afghanistan, a victim identified by the United Nations as a Somali-American, two Britons — development specialist Dharmender Singh Phangura and close protection officer Simon Chase — two Canadians, two Lebanese, a Danish police officer, a Russian, a Malaysian and a Pakistani. Phangura, who along with the Malaysian worked as an adviser for Adam Smith International, was to run as a Labour Party candidate in upcoming elections for the European Parliament. Also among the dead were the International Monetary Fund's Lebanese representative, Wabel Abdallah, and Vadim Nazarov, a Russian who was the chief political affairs officer at the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan. Nazarov was one of the U.N's most experienced officials, fluent in the country's languages and with experience dating back to the 1980s. He was one of three U.N. victims. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in reprisal for an Afghan military operation earlier in the week against insurgents in eastern Parwan province, which the insurgents claimed killed many civilians. The Taliban frequently provide exaggerated casualty figures. "The target of the attack was a restaurant frequented by high-ranking foreigners," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement. He said the attack targeted a place "where the invaders used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty." He described the "revenge attack" as having delivered a "heavy admonitory blow to the enemy which they shall never forget." The deaths have shaken Kabul's tight-knit expatriate community, which frequented a handful of restaurants such as Taverna that were considered relative safe in Kabul's often insecure streets. The deadliest previous attack against foreign civilians was in Sept. 8, 2012, when nine civilian employees of a private aviation company were killed in a suicide attack happened near Kabul airport. They included eight South Africans and a Kyrgyz. Such attacks in the past have prompted a mass exodus of foreign staff from the country, and the insecurity has been compounded by the refusal of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a security deal with the United States that would keep about 10,000 troops here for up to 10 more years. Although a national assembly of elders endorsed the deal last year, Karzai is deferring its signature until after the April 5 presidential elections — which the United States has said may not give it enough time to plan and could lead to a pull out of all troops. An indication of the testiness in relations was apparent in Karzai's condemnation of the attack, which came almost a day after it took place. In what was essentially a political statement, Karzai said the U.S. was not doing enough to deal with terrorism in Afghanistan and said its policies so far had not been successful. "If NATO forces and in the lead the United States of America want to cooperate and be united with Afghan people, they must target terrorism," he said without fully elaborating on what America should be doing. He added that America had followed a "policy which has caused many scarifies in Afghanistan and was not successful in the past decade." The attack also was condemned by the U.N. Security Council, NATO and the European Union. The restaurant, like most places frequented by foreign diplomats, aid workers, journalists and businessmen in the war-weary country, has no signs indicating its location and is heavily secured. It sits on a small side street just off a bumpy semi-paved road in a house with low ceilings and an enclosed patio but has no windows. Bags of dirt are piled up around it to act as blast walls and guests must go through a series of steel airlocks, where they are searched, before entering. The surrounding area is full of police and security guards to protect against insurgent attacks, which have increased in recent months around the country. "The restaurant was known to be one of the more secure in the area and has therefore been given a green-light by many expatriate and official organizations," said Michael Smith, the president of the American University of Afghanistan. ___ Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report. ___ Follow Patrick Quinn on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PatrickAQuinn.
James Smith Activist Post In the middle of December 2012, the Customs and Border Protection Agency presented a pre-solicitation for 50,000,000 rounds of .40 S&W caliber ammunition, ostensibly for training. The contract would provide a total of 250,000,000 rounds over the life of the 5-year contract. The contract was to be issued on 20 January 2013. CPB, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has included the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency with this solicitation. Today, CPB and ICE announced via the solicitation process that they will be awarding the contract on or about October 7, 2013. Added to the original solicitation was this sentence: Resulting award will be used for training/qualifications only, not for duty use, and will be used as a direct substitution in lieu of procuring like quantities of duty ammunition.From their individual websites: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries. CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations, including immigration and drug laws. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; ICE and CPB both have approximately 21,000 employees. This number is not solely agents, but administrative staff who would never be allowed to train with a firearm. However, if every employee was allowed to train with a firearm, using this one solicitation alone, each employee would have the opportunity to fire 1,190 rounds a year. This sort of ammunition purchase is what led to the US House of Representatives to stop DHS from entering into new contracts. There have been no news reports of this limitation being removed from DHS. We will keep you updated on this matter as information comes available. Read more about government munitions purchases here: Can’t buy groceries? DHS goes on another munitions spree with your money. Homeland Security Allocates Nearly One Billion Dollars For Explosives Storage Magazines Bureau Of Indian Affairs Look To Quell Indian Uprising By Purchasing Over A Half Million Dollars In New Military Grade Hardware EXCLUSIVE: Documents Prove That Homeland Security Is Being Armed By US Military This article first appeared at Prepper Podcast Radio Network. James is a father of four and grandfather to four. He and his wife of almost 30 years have been prepping since 2003. They live in a small town, with neighbors as close as 10 feet away and have raised chickens for 2 years covertly on less than 1/5 of an acre. He is a former corrections officer, insurance fraud investigator, and he served in the Navy for 6 years. He currently works for a corporation dealing with the disabled population and their benefits. He is the host of The Covert Prepper show and the Prepper Podcast Radio Network News, both heard on Blogtalk Radio.
Today we’re releasing our second-annual list of the best websites for your career. Last year our list of 75 sites stirred plenty of comments, emails and tweets. This August we put out another call for nominations and got a flood of 2,000 responses. My colleague Jacquelyn Smith did the heavy lifting, considering all the new suggestions, reviewing last year’s list, and then expanding our total to 100. Our goal with the master list is not a ranking but rather a roster that we think can be useful to all sorts of people at varying stages of their careers—would-be interns, job seekers, business owners, established professionals, even retirees. Click here for the full list and short descriptions about each site.
UN investigator says she has never faced such a hostile reaction in a country as she did for her bedroom tax reportA United Nations special investigator has said that she had never faced such a hostile reaction from a country after her preliminary findings on the coalition's bedroom tax policy prompted a vicious response from the rightwing media and Conservative politicians.The UN's special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, a Brazilian academic, was dubbed a "Brazil nut" and "a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx" in some of Wednesday's newspapers after she had called for the bedroom tax to be abolished.Responding to the criticism in titles such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express, Rolnik told the Guardian: "My nationality is of no relevance to my role as a special rapporteur." She added: "What should matter is how to address the housing issues in the UK in a way that respects the rights of people living in the UK."The row about the state of British housing began after the Guardian reported Rolnik's call on the UK government to retreat on welfare reform on Wednesday, following a 14-day fact finding mission around the UK. She said she had heard "shocking" accounts of how the policy was affecting vulnerable people in the UK.Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps said he had written a formal complaint to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon demanding an investigation and claiming Rolnik had not met relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy. He demanded that she withdraw her report.Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said Rolnik had undermined the impartiality of the UN, adding it was "staggering" she had come to her conclusions without access to official information – while Tory MP Stewart Jackson said Rolnik was a "loopy Brazilian leftie with no evidence masquerading as a serious UN official".Rolnik said it was the most hostile response she had ever faced from a national government. "It was the first time a government has been so aggressive," she told Inside Housing. "When I was in the US I had a constructive conversation with them, accepting some things and arguing with others. They did not react like this."The rapporteur was a minister in the centre-left Workers party in the last decade, but denied Tory accusations of political bias. "I didn't come here to investigate the bedroom tax, I came here as a normal country mission, to assess the situation. I came across the bedroom tax when I was here, but I am an independent investigator."She also dismissed the claim that she had failed to meet the relevant ministers and officials before giving her preliminary findings. "I have met officials from many departments, and the details of these meetings are all listed within my report."It is understood that as well as meetings with Eric Pickles, secretary of state at the department of communities and local government, and undersecretary Don Foster, she also met several other officials including the head of housing policy at the department for work and pensions.On Wednesday an expert in international human rights, Professor Aoife Nolan from the University of Nottingham, criticised the government for its "hysterical" response to Rolnik's report. She contradicted Shapps's letter saying Rolnik had not been invited by the UK government."This is set out in the code of conduct for such appointment-holders," Nolan said. "Indeed, so open was the UK to the possibility of a visit from UN experts like Rolnik that in March 2001 it issued a standing invitation to all such UN appointment-holders."Rolnik did not simply 'come over'. She didn't fail to meet with government ministers … furthermore, complaints about [her] failure to meet face-to-face with the ministers responsible for welfare and housing – and hence an alleged lack of balance in her statement – seem somewhat ironic and misplaced, given that it was the government who did not act on her pre-visit request for those meetings."A Conservative party spokesman said: "We stand firmly by Grant Shapps's letter and look forward to an early response."Bedroom taxWelfareHousingHousing benefitBenefitsUnited NationsConservativesLiberal-Conservative coalitionLiberal DemocratsGrant ShappsIain Duncan SmithMatthew Taylor theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Campaigners celebrate after president sends protection of state information bill back to parliamentCampaigners in South Africa were celebrating on Thursday after President Jacob Zuma rejected controversial secrecy laws that threatened journalists and whistleblowers with long prison terms.In a surprise move, Zuma refused to sign the protection of state information bill because it did not pass "constitutional muster" and knocked it back to parliament for revision. It had been widely assumed that the president's approval was a mere formality.The proposed "secrecy bill" puts those in possession of classified information at risk of jail sentences of up to 25 years. Activists have compared it to apartheid-era crackdowns and warned of a "chilling effect" on investigative journalism and those seeking to expose government corruption. Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela's foundation have spoken out against the proposed legislation.But it is also widely conceded that, after heated national debate, the current bill is a significant improvement on legislation first drawn up five years ago. The president's unexpected decision to send it back means that it is now likely to be watered down further still."I have given consideration to the bill in its entirety and the various opinions and commentaries regarding the constitutionality and tagging of the bill," Zuma told the parliamentary press gallery association on Thursday. "After consideration of the bill and having applied my mind thereto, I am of the view that the bill as it stands does not pass constitutional muster."He added: "The constitution requires that the president must assent to and sign the bill referred to him or her by the national assembly. However, in terms of section 79(1) of the constitution, if the president has reservations about the constitutionality of the bill, he or she may refer it back to the national assembly for reconsideration."In this regard, I have referred the bill to the national assembly for reconsideration insofar as sections of the bill, in particular sections 42 and 45, lack meaning and coherence, consequently are irrational and accordingly are unconstitutional."In April, the bill was passed in parliament's national assembly with 189 votes in favour, 74 against and one abstention. It is intended to repeal an old apartheid law, the protection of information act of 1982, which is not in line with the democratic constitution.But it faced opposition from rival political parties, editors, lawyers and civil society groups as well as international organisations. They argued that the bill is unconstitutional because it lacks a clause to protect those who publish information that they deem to be in the public interest.Despite being accused of ramming the legislation through, Zuma's party, the African National Congress, said it "welcomes" his ruling. The office of its chief whip said: "We appreciate the president's views on the bill. Indeed, parliament must ensure that an appropriate process is instituted to ensure that amendments are accordingly effected. It is important that the laws parliament pass are of highest quality and are not in conflict with the constitution."We are confident that the amendments would further strengthen the bill and its objectives of protecting citizen's information and enhancing national security through protection of sensitive government information."Zuma's intervention was welcomed by Mandela's long-time friend and lawyer George Bizos, who said: "I said before they passed it there will be a long queue of lawyers at the constitutional court, so he must have received good advice. I'm very pleased. It would have been a threat to freedom of expression."Murray Hunter of the civil society group the Right2Know campaign told the eNews Channel Africa: "I think we are definitely celebrating. This is an important day. While it's not over, this is a sign that as citizens working together, mobilising, we certainly are able to bring change."Zuma sent the bill back to the drawing board despite reportedly speaking out against the media earlier this week. Addressing a group of journalism students, he was quoted as saying: "Who do you think in reality you serve when reporting: the interest of the public that you claim, as the media you stand for, or the interest of the owners and managers of the paper?"Zuma reportedly said the South African media claimed to act as society's watchdog, but "they were never elected. I've argued with them that they were never elected, we were elected and we can claim that we represent the people. They do say they represent the people. [But] does the population or public determine what is reported? They don't."South AfricaAfricaJacob ZumaDavid Smith theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE: Larry Edward André, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, of the District of Columbia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. John P. Carlin, of New York, to be an Assistant Attorney General, vice Lisa O. Monaco, resigned. Beth F. Cobert, of California, to be Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, vice Jeffrey D. Zients, resigned. Bradley Crowell, of Nevada, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs), vice Jeffrey A. Lane. Richard G. Frank, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice Sherry Glied, resigned. Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Sloan D. Gibson, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, vice W. Scott Gould. Heather Anne Higginbottom, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, vice Thomas R. Nides, resigned. Paul Nathan Jaenichen, Sr., of Kentucky, to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration, vice David T. Matsuda, resigned. Esther Puakela Kia'aina, of Hawaii, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior, vice Anthony Marion Babauta. Helen Meagher La Lime, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola. Michael Anderson Lawson, of California, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Barbara Lee, of California, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Michael D. Lumpkin, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Michael A. Sheehan. Mark Meadows, of North Carolina, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Luis G. Moreno, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica. Jamie Michael Morin, of Michigan, to be Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Department of Defense, vice Christine H. Fox, resigned. Jo Ann Rooney, of Massachusetts, to be Under Secretary of the Navy, vice Robert O. Work, resigned. James H. Shelton III, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of Education, vice Anthony W. Miller, resigned. Christopher Smith, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), vice Charles DeWitt McConnell, resigned. Theodore Strickland, of Ohio, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Puneet Talwar, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs), vice Andrew J. Shapiro. George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway. Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer, of Illinois, to be Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Protection Agency, vice Barbara J. Bennett, resigned. David Weil, of Massachusetts, to be Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor, vice Paul DeCamp. Roy K. J. Williams, of Ohio, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, vice John R. Fernandez, resigned. Daniel W. Yohannes, of Colorado, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador. Stephen N. Zack, of Florida, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Conservative party chairman's letter to UN lambasts Raquel Rolnik for her recommendation that bedroom tax should be axedA government minister has made a formal complaint to the UN, accusing the its special rapporteur on housing of political bias and calling for her to withdraw her report on UK housing conditions, in which she calls on the government to suspend its bedroom tax.In a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the Conservative party chairman and minister without portfolio Grant Shapps demanded an investigation into the actions of the UN's rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik, complaining that she had not met the relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy.Rolnik said there were no grounds for a complaint, and that she had received the full cooperation of the UK government throughout her visit. She gave details of meetings on welfare reform she had with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as meetings with two DCLG ministers.She was puzzled by the formal letter of complaint, remarking: "Maybe the comments came from someone who is not well informed about UN human rights mechanisms and is not informed about his own government."Shapps's unusual intervention was the culmination of a furious response from the government to Rolnik's preliminary report on housing conditions in Britain, in which she detailed her concerns at the impact of welfare reform on "the most vulnerable" in UK society. She called for the bedroom tax (whereby council tenants are lose benefit for under-occupying homes deemed too large for their needs) to be suspended pending a full re-evaluation of its "impact on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals".In a letter on Conservative party-headed paper, addressed to Ban, Shapps said the UK's legal system had already ruled that the policy ending the spare room subsidy was lawful."I am therefore extremely surprised and disappointed to learn that the UN has directly contradicted the decisions of our courts", he wrote, suggesting "the UN withdrew Rolnik's claims on the bedroom tax pending a full investigation."In broadcast interviews Shapps described the report as "an absolute disgrace", said that Rolnik had not been invited by the government, and had not researched her subject adequately. He questioned "how it is that a woman from Brazil has come over, a country that has 50 million in inadequate housing" to report on housing conditions in Britain.Rolnik had not sought to meet work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, or officials responsible for the policy on the spare room subsidy, he claimed.Rolnik responded that she had requested meetings with DWP ministers, but said her agenda had been organised by the UK government, which had organised meetings both with Eric Pickles, communities secretary, and Don Foster, DCLG the under secretary. "The whole mission was organised by the government. It was not only that I was invited but also the UK government was completely involved in the organisation. More than half of the meetings here, [were] meetings with government officials. They also facilitated me to meet with local councils," she said, adding that the DWP had also sent her information and had been helpful in responding to her questions.Shapps demanded to know the process leading to the commissioning of the report and said her use of the term "bedroom tax", (rather than the government's policy description – "ending the spare room subsidy") revealed political bias. She later apologised for using the shorthand, saying: "Since I arrived here everybody was saying that … I didn't have any agenda before coming here."Her trip had been organised according to strict UN protocol, as had fact-finding missions to the US, Spain, Rwanda, and Indonesia, she said. "What we have done here is exactly the same thing that we have done in 11 countries. All special rapporteurs do exactly the same thing. This was a very good mission, [with] very good relations with the UK government, so there is nothing to complain about."In her preliminary report, Rolnik broadened her attack on the bedroom tax first revealed by the Guardian, to other concerns, including the effect of benefit caps and fears that decentralisation of planning laws in Northern Ireland might lead to "increased sectarianism and discrimination". She warned that housing benefit caps would make moving to the private rented sector increasingly difficult for those on low incomes, and complained that homes were now allowed to stand empty in London and elsewhere because they had been sold to international buyers as financial assets.The system for helping the poor in Britain had been weakened by "a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged home-ownership over other forms of tenure", said Rolnik.She cited the government's "help to buy" scheme and failure to replace homes removed from social housing by two decades of tenants' right to buy their council homes. "It is possible to stimulate the economy and construction industry if you provide more social housing and affordable housing," Rolnik said, adding that such a recommendation would be made in her final report.She also warned over increasing stigma being shown toward Gypsies, Travellers and Roma struggling to find accommodation. She had concerns too about provision for refugees and asylum seekers. Rolnik did say Britain had set an example in the way it had renovated old social housing estates and praised its mixed communities and lack of segregation.The housing charity Shelter welcomed Rolnik's initial findings: "Shelter sees in its services each day how the bedroom tax is a deeply damaging policy. With the shortage of social homes of the right size in the right places, we know that it will be very difficult for many families to downsize, and none more so than the disabled and others with special needs. This is something the government's own Impact Assessment notes, but they have yet to make sure many vulnerable families are properly protected."Bedroom taxHousing benefitBenefitsHousingCommunitiesBan Ki-moonGrant ShappsWelfareUnited NationsHuman rightsJames MeikleAmelia Gentleman theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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Officials say up to £161m could be written off on universal credit IT system – four times what minister saidIain Duncan Smith has been accused of misleading parliament after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could write off up to £161m spent on an IT system for ambitious welfare changes – more than four times what the minister said would be wasted.The welfare minister also faces further embarrassing disclosures from PwC accountants who found that the universal credit system, which will allow the government to roll six welfare payments into one, has had little ministerial oversight. In one instance, a civil servant's personal assistant was allowed to sign off contracts, they found.The disclosures emerged at a public accounts committee meeting on Wednesday when officials from the department were closely questioned by MPs.Mike Driver, the finance director general of the department, confirmed that the costs could be as much as £161m, while Norma Wood, the head of the Major Projects Authority, agreed that the system would have to write off at least £140m.Margaret Hodge, the committee's chair, said she had been sent an official PwC report into the project which highlighted concerns that there was a lack of ministerial accountability. Of 25 contracts costing at least £25,000 reviewed by accountants, only 11 appeared to have been signed off by ministers, she said.The PwC report also found that a personal assistant to a senior civil servant had been allowed to authorise purchase orders, in contravention of strict procurement rules.Hodge told the DWP's permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, that a National Audit Office report released last week was "damning" but an internal study she had been sent recently by PwC was even worse. "I think it's one of the worst I have seen in my time here … as I read it felt like it was an out-of-control project," she said.Hodge accused the DWP of "sitting on" the PwC assessment for six months, and claimed it was a "damning indictment … PwC basically damns your control system."Labour on Wednesday night called for Duncan Smith to return to parliament to explain why he told MPs last week that his department expected to write off £34m.Liam Byrne, Duncan Smith's shadow minister, said: "Parliament's watchdog has blown apart yet another cover-up by Iain Duncan Smith who it seems has tried to hide a write-off of over £100m on his disaster-hit universal credit project."We're now told there was no ministerial accountability and financial control was so weak that secretaries were signing huge purchase orders. Mr Duncan Smith must now publish the damning report by his auditors PwC. We must get to the truth ministers are trying to hide."Duncan Smith last week blamed civil servants for the IT failures that threatened to derail the scheme, telling the Commons: "When I arrived I expected professionalism to be able to do this."Devereux, the permanent secretary of his department, told the committee the programme had been poor value for money but he thought it could still be delivered by 2017, the government's deadline.Universal credit merges six benefits, with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment. It requires different payments to landlords and more online claims, and merges in-work and out-of-work benefits, requiring new definitions of benefit conditions for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HMRC.In the business case for the project, the DWP estimated substantial savings – a net benefit of £38bn by 2023.From 2023, the estimated annual benefit was planned to be £7bn. It was initially planned that the project would be introduced nationally by October this year, but pilot projects were delayed and are now going ahead in four areas.The NAO found the IT system could not identify potentially fraudulent claims, meaning manual checks were needed. Civil servants were also accused of having weak control of the programme and were unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300m to develop, the watchdog added.A DWP spokesperson said: "The IT for universal credit is up and running well in the early rollout of the new benefit. It is to be expected that IT requirements evolve on a long-term programme of reform, but Howard Shiplee [the director general of universal credit] has been clear that he envisages using a substantial amount of the current IT for the national rollout."Iain Duncan SmithBenefitsWelfareCivil serviceRajeev Syal theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Last week, I linked to the LearnLiberty "Why are YOU a Libertarian?" Tumblr. Twitter user @EricPaulDennis posted the following: @Econlib @artcarden @LearnLiberty Because its easier to say, 'not my problem,' than to consider solutions. (?)— Eric Paul Dennis (@EricPaulDennis) September 7, 2013 However, "Not My Problem" is probably the right response more often than we want to believe. The tradition of what Peter J. Boettke calls "Mainline Economics" connecting scholars like (for example) Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and James Buchanan, emphasizes the fact that we rarely have enough knowledge about what Hayek called "the particular circumstances of time and place" to interfere advantageously in others' affairs. Too often, the impulse to action clouds our better judgment, and we make an even bigger mess of things. In his summary of the "Austrian School of Economics" Boettke points out some of the key insights of the "mainline" paradigm. These insights have been applied fruitfully to questions of international political economy, war, reconstruction, and humanitarian adventures by Boettke's student Christopher J. Coyne in his books After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy and Doing Bad By Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails. Here's an EconTalk Podcast with Coyne on the first book. Here's Coyne on C-SPAN discussing the second. (13 COMMENTS)