MP to quiz ministers over Gunnyeon’s Maximus WCA role


newslatestAn MP is to ask ministers why a former senior civil servant had to wait just six months before working for a private sector company on two disability contracts he led on at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last week that Bill Gunnyeon had been given permission by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to work for US outsourcing giant Maximus on both its work capability assessment (WCA) and Fit for Work contracts, from the beginning of March.

The much-criticised WCA assesses eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits, while the new Fit for Work service provides an occupational health assessment and health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs, in a bid to help people return to or stay in work after an illness.

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

Now Labour’s Sheila Gilmore, a member of the Commons work and pensions select committee, plans to quiz ministers including Mark Harper, the Conservative minister for disabled people, about Gunnyeon’s new role at Maximus.

She hopes to be able to raise the concerns when Harper appears before the committee on Wednesday (28 January) to answer questions on disability benefits.

She said: “Bill Gunnyeon’s decision to leave DWP for US outsourcing firm Maximus exposes the revolving door that exists between Iain Duncan Smith’s department and its main contractors.

“It also raises questions for ministers over the decisions to grant Maximus responsibility for both work capability assessments and Fit for Work in the months both before and immediately after his departure.”

She said it was crucial to find out what Gunnyeon’s role was in the award of the two contracts, whether he had already been approached by Maximus at the time, and why he will be allowed to start working on the contracts just six months after leaving DWP.

She said: “It’s always disappointing to see apparently committed public servants move to the big outsourcing firms, but this particular example raises questions about the proper use of public funds. I’ll be seeking answers from ministers in the coming weeks and months.”

DWP placed two conditions on 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”.

A DWP spokesman said this week that these conditions were “reasonable”.

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”.

22 January 2015

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