Monitoring requirements and the power dynamic

Sometimes, I fascinate myself with the titles of my blogposts.

This latest one is inspired, insofar as anything can be inspired by considerations of monitoring requirements, by two things happening at once.

The first was the HMRC writing to people to let them know they may have underpayed on income tax and seeking immediate payment of that deficit. The second was a relatively unwelcome phone call at work from a well-known funding body telling me they hadn’t received a monitoring report we had actually sent four months ago.

In both cases, the fault for the issue at hand clearly and squarely lay with the agency doing the contacting. In the case of the HMRC it appears their system meant they aren’t always collecting the correct amounts of tax. In the case of the well-known funding body, it turned out that the monitoring officer assigned to my organisation had left the well-known funding body and that their replacement had also left. On both occasions, each person had not passed on any details about the organisations/projects they were monitoring to the next person.

Despite the fault lying with the agency in both cases, my frustration here is that the assumption of wrongdoing lay not with the agency but with the recipient. HMRC doesn’t appear to be sorry about their tax collection mistake and the potential hardship their demands for deficit payments could make. The well-known funding body assumed first that I hadn’t submitted a funding report and worked on that basis until proved otherwise.

This is clearly the result of power dynamics, and it’s one that niggles at me.

To note just one irony here: at even the slightest suggestion that the main point of contact for my organisation’s relationship with the well-known funding body was going to change, I had to complete a “Change of contact details” form which had to be signed by me, the new person, my Chief Executive and a member of my Management Board. A copy of this form then had to be sent to the well-known funding body and kept on file at my workplace. And yet when details of our monitoring officer changed not once but twice, we knew nothing about it.

I take the view that, irrespective of what organisation or what sector you work in, you do unto others as you would be done to yourself. The power dynamic between tax collecter and tax payer or funder and funded has created a distortion in which the former don’t treat the latter with equal respect.

It’s a dynamic I’m not altogether that keen on.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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