Oops – rather than cutting government paperwork, I appear to have increased it

Way back in October 2010 I broke the news about paperwork having gone mad at the Ministry of Justice, courtesy of its policy on safe driving:

Despite the government’s rhetoric of cutting bureaucracy, the Ministry of Justice – one of the largest Whitehall departments and responsible for many important administrative systems – is spectacularly failing to set a good example with its own hugely bureaucratic approach to health and safety when people are driving as part of their work.

The MoJ has two specially produced full colour booklets, a flowchart, an FAQ document, more than six different forms and training sessions for managers in how to make the whole system work all in the name of helping to keep all its staff safe when driving on official business. Such staff are also advised to keep four different pieces of Ministry of Justice paperwork in the vehicle at all times.

Other departments are managing on far less. HM Treasury has two short sections on safe driving and departmental procedure in its staff policy documents…

The Department for Transport, experts on safe driving you might imagine, manages with a two and a half page policy.


However, the Ministry of Justice has a full colour 17 page document, a taste of which is given in the eleven point “Purpose” section at the start that includes, “Implementing management and accident procedures using appropriate forms before any official driving duties are undertaken”.

There is a multiplicity of these MoJ forms, including three different versions of the Driving on Official Duty Declaration Form, a Driving Risk Assessment Form, a Driver/Vehicle Documentation Check Form and a Driver Journey Log (though good news on the log for, “Other documents used to record travel details such as travel and subsistence forms can be used to support the log and minimise administration”).

Supplementing the document is a 14-step safe driving chart, an 18-question long “Frequently Asked Questions” separate document and a further full colour pamphlet, Supporting you – safe policy driving statement, with a ‘personal’ signature from the department’s Permanent Chief Secretary – indicating how this level of bureaucracy is not the result of one extremely over-keen person somewhere in the system, but that responsibility runs directly to the very top. Drivers are also advised to make use of the MoJ’s separate Guidance on eye care document.

But it does not stop with the paperwork in the Ministry of Justice, because managers are also required to attend training on how to comply with the paperwork whilst drivers can also ask for training on how to follow the MoJ’s driving policy.

Drivers are also recommended to keep four different pieces of MoJ official paperwork in their cars at all times.

Despite the burst of media coverage garnered by the story, the MoJ didn’t leap into action to remove egg from face and remove over the top paperwork from their systems. Instead, they promised a slow-moving review – one which was delayed and delayed again.

A few harrying Freedom of Information requests along the way documented the delays and (I hope) may even have helped ensure the review was never quite dropped.

And now at last… (drum roll please), the Ministry of Justice has produced its new slimline safe driving for work policy. A mere 18 pages (none of this brevity nonsense that other departments go for, obviously) but – fans of flowcharts will be glad to know – a flowchart lives on.

Those paying attention to the detail will notice that this is, ahem, one page longer than the original document. Let’s call it a negative reduction in paperwork.



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