Former WCA boss free to advise Maximus on ‘fitness for work’ test within weeks


newslatestThe senior civil servant previously responsible for government policy on the notorious “fitness for work” test could start offering advice on the same issue to his new private sector bosses within weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested last week that Bill Gunnyeon would not be able to carry out any work for US outsourcing giant Maximus on its work capability assessment (WCA) contract until 2016.

Gunnyeon quit his DWP post as chief medical adviser and director for health and well-being – where he had overall responsibility for WCA policy – only last August, but has now been handed lucrative consultancy work with Maximus.

Maximus was awarded the WCA contract only two months after Gunnyeon left DWP. Weeks before he left, Maximus also won the contract to deliver the government’s new health and work service.

Maximus said that Gunnyeon, who was also involved in the development of the health and work programme at DWP, would be free to work for them on both contracts just six months after he left his DWP post.

A DWP spokeswoman directed DNS to a copy of the Civil Service rules “to which Bill Gunnyeon and others in similar situations are subject”.

She added: “Beyond this, any further questions about an individual’s role at an outside organisation should be directed to that organisation.”

After DNS questioned why DWP would not confirm whether someone in Gunnyeon’s position would be free to work on contracts he had been closely involved with for the government only six months after leaving his post, the spokeswoman originally refused to comment further.

She eventually passed the question to the Cabinet Office, which passed it to the advisory committee on business appointments, which directed DNS back to DWP.

A DWP spokesman then confirmed this morning that two conditions had been placed on Bill Gunnyeon when he left DWP.

The first was that, for six months from 31 August 2014, “he should stand aside from any work related to the government’s health and employment policy strategy”.

The second was that, for 12 months from 31 August 2014, “he should not become personally involved in lobbying the Department for Work and Pensions, UK government ministers or crown servants, including special advisers on behalf of Maximus”.

Only last week, Maximus was insisting that Gunnyeon would not be allowed to provide any advice, make any suggestions, or contact staff working on the two DWP contracts, but would instead be working on “UK business development”.

But this week, a Maximus spokesman said: “Cabinet Office rules require certain senior civil servants to seek approval for their work for two years.

“The Cabinet Office can apply other restrictions as appropriate. In this particular case Bill Gunnyeon is not able to work on the two previously mentioned contracts for a period of six months.”

When asked whether Gunnyeon would be working on the WCA and health and work contracts at the end of the six months, the spokesman said: “Bill Gunnyeon is prohibited from working on those contracts at this point. Beyond that we have made no decisions in this regard.”

Last week, DNS revealed that Gunnyeon had already attended an induction meeting with other senior staff at which the WCA contract was discussed at length, although he had made it clear that he was unable to participate in that discussion.

DNS reported last October that Maximus was poised to win the WCA contract despite a “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud in the US.

After the contract was awarded, Maximus attempted to distance itself from its past US record, claiming that these concerns were “historic issues overwhelmingly”, and that there was now a “different leadership team” in place which had “put those issues right”.

16 January 2015