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MLA praises HMRC sackings

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo has praised Revenue and Customs for sacking seven staff for abusing non-nationals who claimed child benefit.

Two other staff members quit when an investigation was launched earlier this year. All nine were based at a HM Revenue and Customs contact centre in Belfast.

It is understood they were accused of tampering with computer records which meant a number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds living in various parts of the UK were paid less money than they were entitled to. All have now been fully imbursed.

The resignations and sackings of the nine men followed an internal investigation into allegations of racially-motivated conduct going back to the second half of last year.

Anna Lo said: “I want to commend Revenue and Customs' swift action in dealing with racially motivated gross misconduct. It is however deeply shocking that such behaviour has happened in the first place.

“I want to stress the importance of corporate racial equality policy and procedures to deal with racial discrimination and the importance of staff training to understand the value of diversity and acceptable behaviour. We still have some way to go in tackling racism in the workplace and people must be vigilant against it.”

Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue and Customs, said the department operates a zero-tolerance policy on racial discrimination.

He said: “The vast majority of our people are entirely professional and one of the ways we support that professionalism is by taking decisive action against the tiny minority who let us all down by falling far short of those standards.”

The HMRC contact centre is based at Dorchester House in Great Victoria Street.

The investigation started last January when a complaint was lodged by somebody who claimed that their records had been changed. A detailed audit was carried out and the inquiry then widened to take in another 16 cases.

It is understood the nine men were suspended once the investigation started, but two quit immediately.

Belfast Telegraph