Belfast Telegraph

Racism at Belfast revenue office: now police are called in

By Victoria O'Hara

The PSNI last night confirmed it had launched an investigation after some employees at the Belfast Revenue and Customs office were discovered to have deliberately reduced benefit payments to members of ethnic minorities across the UK.

It emerged yesterday that seven members of staff at the office were sacked following an internal probe. Two other staff members quit earlier this year following allegations of racially-motivated gross misconduct were lodged last January.

The probe began after a complaint was made by someone who reported their records had been changed to their child benefits.

It is understood about 200 staff work at the contact centre.

The sacked seven and the two who resigned all live in Northern Ireland. It is understood they were accused of tampering with computer records, which meant a number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds living across the UK were paid less money than they were entitled to.

A detailed audit was carried out and the inquiry then widened to take in another 16 cases. All have now been fully reimbursed.

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.”

A spokesman for the union Public and Commercial Services (PCS)—which represents workers from HMRC— said it campaigns hard against any form of racism or discriminatory behaviour.

“We have concerns about procedural issues and will be seeking to raise these with the employer,” he said.

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