Motability urged to ‘stop making excuses’ and take NAO report seriously

The Motability Scheme has been told it must ‘stop making excuses’ and start being more transparent as part of an ongoing inquiry into the mobility equipment leasing charity and its trading arm, Motability Operations.

The Treasury and Work and Pensions Committees have said that Motability bosses need to provide full evidence during ongoing investigations and fully implement the National Audit Office’s (NAO) calls for reforms to the scheme’s governance.

Motability, which is funded by the tax payer, has been criticised over the last 12 months after it was revealed it held huge reserves estimated to be more than £2bn and paid its chief executive a £2m bonus, which it was accused of trying to hide.

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The committees have said the scheme “operates as a monopoly” but still benefits from £888m of tax reliefs and support from the government that isn’t available to the vast majority of private companies.

The NAO issued a number of recommendations last year in a report outlining how Motability needs to improve. The charity’s chair, Lord Sterling, and Motability Operations director, Paul Atkinson, both said the scheme had taken on-board the NAO’s recommendations.

But a series of letters published this week discussed evidence submitted by Motability bosses and accused Lord Sterling, of attempting to “discredit the NAO’s valuation of tax reliefs benefiting the scheme”.

The letters follow various Parliamentary evidence sessions, including the most recent one where it was argued Motability was not being transparent on its remuneration policy and where the charity arm vowed to use a £400m donation to dish out more grants to disabled people.

Chair of the committee, MP Frank Field, said that Motability Operations has “serious questions to answer about the information they provided to Parliament”.

The committee said that the latest evidence suggests Motability is still “not taking the NAO or the committees seriously”.

It added that the governors of Motability “failed to provide full details of the recommendations of their internal governance review, attempting instead to hide behind ‘commercial sensitivity’”.

Pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, said that the NAO and the committees have provided a “clear understanding of how the scheme operates today”. She said the government will ask Motability to be “transparent in implementing the NAO’s recommendations”.

Mr Field said: “We are clear, the NAO is clear, the government is clear: Motability must step up, now, and demonstrate the transparency and accountability befitting an organisation that enjoys huge amounts of taxpayer’s support.

“Stop making excuses, start channelling all your vast resources into what Motability does best: giving freedom and mobility to so many disabled people.”

Nicky Morgan MP, who chairs the treasury committee, said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. So it’s extremely disappointing that Motability is refusing to provide our committees with the evidence that we have requested.

“We will continue to push for full disclosure to ensure that disabled people are provided with the best possible support.”

Late last year, Mike Betts, Motability’s chief executive, announced he will step down “no later than May 2020”.

Lord Sterling insisted Motability would be reviewing its policy on how much say the charity has in decisions on reserves after the scheme was criticised for holding more than £2bn back.

He said: “The charity itself has instituted a full-blooded review of all the reserves, which the NAO is totally in the picture about, of course, with the full support of the board of Motability Operations.”

STOCK IMAGE. Image credit: Jack Taylor

Tags : amber ruddfrank fieldmotabilitymotability operationsnaonational audit officepensions committeetreasury commiteework and pensions committee
Joe Peskett

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