02 July 2004
Government forms should be short and simple to fill in if administrative efficiency is to be improved, MPs said this week.
In a report published on June 29, the Public Accounts Committee urges ministers to ensure forms are well designed and tested in order to minimise errors. Departments should also consider providing telephone-based support for people filling them in.
The introduction of telephone assistance for pensioners claiming Pension Credit had cut costs, thanks to a reduction in errors and appeals.
'Government departments and other bodies have an obligation to make sure that their forms are quick and easy for members of the public to fill in, and minimise the need for people to supply the same information more than once,' PAC chair Edward Leigh said.
'Improvements would reduce the burden of bureaucracy on the citizen, and lead to greater administrative efficiency and savings for the taxpayer.'
The report encourages departments to set visible milestones and targets to demonstrate greater commitment to meeting the government's 2005 deadline for on-line provision of all forms.
Departments are also urged to improve electronic communication between themselves to ensure better information sharing.
The report says some assessment should be made of the administrative costs of processing forms. But it recognises that the Inland Revenue's introduction of the short tax return for certain customers offered scope for reduced compliance costs and improved efficiency,
However, MPs found the service did not know the relative cost of processing the short form against the standard one.