Whilst the usual suspects bleat about invasion of privacy and big brother society, but I for one am chuffed at the prospect of lie detectors in the Town Hall.
In the article, Deputy Leader of the Council Dan Thomas says
“It is part of our contract that Capita will look closely at groups of residents where there may be an element of fraud. The council offers several million pounds of discounts and over the duration of the contract Capita would be able to save the council a lot of money by tackling fraud.”Well roll on the day they introduce it into the Council Chamber. That is one group of residents I'd be absolutely fascinated to see take lie detector tests. Maybe they could install a big flashing neon Pork Pie above the Mayors seat. If a member tells a whopper, the pork pie could flash and the Mayor could send him into the naughty corner.
There is one Councillor above all others who I think would literally set the council chamber alight if such software was installed. I'm not going to name him, but I caught him out tweeting that he was at Mill Hill Library when he wasn't. That is one of the more minor "illuminations" that he's given the people of Barnet over the years. I've sat through countless Council meetings where Councillors have mislead the public (and each other). I've often wondered if they are doing it deliberately or whether they are actually too thick to realise and have simply swallowed a line that the Officers have fed them. The flashing pork pie would settle the debate for once and for all time.
And what about using the software to catch hapless fraudsters diddling the taxpayer out of millions of pounds. Well I ask you this. Were you affected by the RBS computer glitch where millions of people did not receive wages and didn't pay bills. That was caused by a supposedly robust bit of software not working properly. Have you ever received a bill or invoice that a computer incorrectly calculated? Have you ever tried to pay a bill electronicallly only for it to go wrong and not pay it or pay it three times.
Well if any of these things have happened to you, just imagine that your reputation and your liberty was being threatened by a piece of software, prone to such failures. How would you feel if you were flagged up as fraudster. I did some research on this. It appears that the best in class software is about 80% accurate. So every fifth person who rings up will get a dodgy result. The council says that "other checks will be performed to ensure that fraud has actually taken place". What they don't say is that the unlucky 20% will be flagged up as potential fraudsters. I have five siblings. If they all had to claim benefits and all were honest and decent, one would be flagged up for "investigation" by Capita's system, for no other reason than their software is crap. How would you feel if that was you? And you know what "Mud sticks". Some people will always think that because a computer said "You may be dodgy" you may be dodgy.
Now all of my reservations will be washed away if they install the flashing pork pie in the Council chamber. If Barnet Council want to prove such as system works, they can do it on themselves first. If they decide that was a success, I'd have no objection to a wider trial.