Public Accounts Committee accuses Department for Transport and its agencies of sick leave scam

The Commons Public Accounts Committee has accused the Department for Transport (DfT) and its agencies of allowing staff to take an extra 13 days’ holiday each year by claiming sick leave.

At a committee hearing last week, chairman Edward Leigh asked whether the DfT, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driving Standards Agency deemed it “OK” to maintain a staff culture of “astonishingly high” sick leave rates.

The hearing was held after the department and its agencies reported an average of 13.5 days sick leave in 2005 and 2006, well above the Civil Service average of 9.8 days annually. Leigh asked: “Is it considered OK in your organisations to take days off? Staff already enjoy 30 days’ holiday a year, now they can get another 13 each.”

DfT permanent secretary Robert Devereux said: “As a consequence of delivering other things, and the departmental reorganisation in 2002, we haven’t put enough [effort] into sickness absence.”

The MPs also explored whether low morale and lack of leadership had caused high sickness rates. But Devereux said: “The DVLA is delivering – it is not consistent with an organisation that is down on itself.”

However, he admitted that the agencies were “very short of management capability”, and said the department was investing in a programme to develop departmental leadership.

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