Correspondence published today centres on evidence submitted by Motability to the Committees—the NAO has confirmed that Motability had no grounds for redacting part of it—concerning the levels of state aid and financial management at the organisation that leases cars to disabled people in return for part of their PIP benefit.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report last year on the Motability scheme raised significant concerns about the governance of the scheme, which the committees have said “operates as a monopoly” but still benefits from generous tax reliefs (maximum value estimated at £888m in 2017) and support from the Government that isn’t available to the vast majority of private companies.
Lord Sterling’s rejoinder to the committees’ investigations openly attempts to discredit the NAO’s valuation of tax reliefs benefiting the scheme, despite the charity governors and Motability Operations having agreed them before publication.
A joint report by the committees last year found that Motability "badly needs a new roadmap" for its finances. The NAO report exposed the full extent of a planned bonus for the Chief Executive which Frank Field branded “obscene”, adding “despite a joint select committee inquiry earlier this year, this is the first time these figures have been out in the open.
Motability Operations now has serious questions to answer about the information they provided to Parliament. With reserves on this scale, and the cutting of executive rewards long overdue, there is now huge scope to improve the lives of hosts of disabled claimants without asking taxpayers for a penny more.” The Chief Executive has since announced he will stand down next year.
The latest evidence suggests Motability is still not taking the NAO or the committees seriously. The governors of Motability failed to provide full details of the recommendations of their internal governance review, attempting instead to hide behind “commercial sensitivity”.
The NAO has confirmed no such exemption applies to those recommendations and the committees have instructed Motability to provide the full unredacted information.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd echoes these concerns, stating that the NAO, the two committees and the Charity Commission have given the Government a “clear understanding of how the scheme operates today …and the steps Motability need to take …we will ask them to be transparent in implementing the NAO’s recommendations and in assisting your committees.”
Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, 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.”
Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Chair of 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."