Area 9 Investigation Confusion
Eventually, after years of raising concerns, Appendix A to Annex 23 surfaced (01/2017) and appears to have caused Highways England some concern, brought them to the table:
21/06/2017, we met Highways England’s new head of Green Claims Sarah Green and presented documentary evidence Kier Highways Ltd. was:
- not complying with the contractually agreed process by which to charge Third Parties – Appendix A to Annex 23
- misrepresenting facts to Courts in the name of Highways England
- fraudulently claiming uplifts on already exaggerated rates. For example, applying ‘multipliers’ to their AIW operatives who we understood worked shifts and were paid to uplifts whereas Kier claimed:
- AIW’s work 8am to 5pm
- AIW’s were paid the uplifts
An investigation of Kier Highways Ltd’s charging of Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers and insurers) was to have commenced. We demonstrated the above allegations of gross exaggeration of claims, failure to comply with the contract and fraud. The concerns affected 1,000’s of claims and £millions.
We were also concerned Highways England were not checking the demands made of them pre-payment of contractor invoices.
The inquiry we were assured was to occur, was slow to get off the ground. Initially Grant Thornton were to be appointed. Then KPMG but it was not until 11/2017 that we spoke to them. An hour long conversation in which they asked few questions. The enquiry was ‘code-named’ PROJECT VERDE.
However, it subsequently seemed the outcome was a forgone conclusion, we were subjected to prevarication, threats and ultimately silence until …
21/09/2018, Highways England’s CEO Jim O’Sullivan wrote that the inquiry was concluded.
No comment about our allegations:
- the evidence or the £millions inappropriately taken from Third Parties in the name of Highways England
- false statements made to the Courts, Third Parties and us
- charges for costs not incurred and misrepresentations to support the demands for payment and
- more recently … what appears to be plundering of the public purse
Then, a Highways England response to an FoIA request on the WhatDoTheyKnow web site revealed:
19/02/2019, the investigation of Area 9, is NOT concluded
‘Following a search of our records, I have established that the information you
requested is not held by Highways England as the review into our service provider
contract for Area 9, is not complete‘ – HE Ref: 768,553 (768553).
22/02/2019 – An annotation on the WDTK request sums up the situation …
‘Oops! Must be a bit embarrassing for the CEO to sign one letter saying that the investigation into Area 9 has being ‘concluded’, and four months later his Green Claims team to say that it isn’t ‘complete’!
I’ve got to follow this.’
The inquiry, which should have commenced when we met Mrs Sarah Green of the Public Authority
In 06/2017, in the space of about 2 hours we presented evidence to support the above allegations. It took more than a year for Highways England Chief Executive Officer, Jim O’Sullivan, to disclose to us that the inquiry was concluded.