Commercially Sensitive, Not Held & Vexatious

It has come to our attention that many who make requests for information of Highways England Company Ltd using the Freedom of information Act (FoIA) are being obstructed. It is apparent Highways England are using various exemptions to deny access, to avoid being transparent.  This conduct assists their contractors to overstate claims.  It appears that simply being associated with us as one of the 300+ we circulate is sufficient for Highways England to take exception to a request for information.  Therefore, in future, we will only annotate WhatDoTheyKnow requests (we monitor Highways England on the site) when a review is sought and will send pm’s (private messages) to update.

The frequently encountered responses to FoIA requests are:

• Not held
• Commercially sensitive
• Vexatious

The fact is, more than just we (CMA) have raised complaints about the conduct of Kier Highways Ltd (KHL) with Highways England. 04/01/2018, Sharon McCarthy Director, Corporate Assurance at Highways England volunteered that others had done so. It is clearly known to Highways England there is concern and wider interest in the subject.

The responses being supplied to FoIA requests by Highways England appear intended to avoid the enquirer ascertaining facts about the systematic exaggeration of invoices presented to Third Parties (drivers, fleets and insurers) by Kier Highways Ltd. Additionally, that Highways England also experience problems with their own contractor and are frequently overcharged.

It appears that not only does the tail wag the dog, but that Highways England do not understand their own environment, the rules and regulations relating to charging – or will turn a blind eye to them.

Highways England do hold information, it can be supplied, it should be supplied but in concert with Kier Highways, the Public Authority is preventing facts being released that would evidence exaggeration on an industrial scale; 1,000’s of invoices every year.

Armed with the information we supplied Highways England in 06/2017, action could have been taken within a month. Instead the audit by KPMG has dragged on.  It appears Highway England wish the status quo to be maintained for another 3 years – by which time all claims will have been brought in-house.

The audit appears to be a sham with Highways England’s lawyers, Government Legal department (GLD) writing 01/2018 that there was no substance in the allegations – astounding given that still, some 3 months later, the audit has yet to be completed!  Subsequently, it has been claimed the GLD lawyer writing to us was misinformed; hardly a glowing endorsement of Highways England who appear partisan in their attitude towards the audit and disclosure of relevant material. We doubt the audit can in fact be carried out with sufficient transparency to yield reliable conclusions.

It seems the issues with which Highways England take exception are some of the pertinent areas we believe evidence misrepresentation by KHL:

• Defined Costs
• Shifts & Multipliers
• Information Held

Since 2014, we have been collating and comparing information from Highway England and Kier Highways Ltd. It is possible that, whilst Highways England will withhold the data which would corroborate our understanding and evidence organised embellishment, what we possess will be sufficient for most who need the evidence. Please email us with questions or requests.

In 03/2018, Highways England capitulated in respect of a claim for over £10,000. The day before the hearing, about an hour after a skeleton argument was submitted by a barrister on behalf of our insurer client, Highways England accepted the sum we had repriced the claim at. It may be coincidental that the claim was stopped shortly after the skeleton argument was received. However, the argument was not compiled by us but by a respected Barrister to whom we had conveyed pertinent information. The decision to drop the claim means Highways England, rather than receiving £10,000+ and their costs, are now responsible for our costs – a sum that could exceed the value of the settlement they received.

It appears Highways England are toying with the public purse.

Commercially Sensitive, Not Held or Vexatious? Commercially embarrassing held and a irritating Public Authority appear more appropriate. More information and evidence can be found by clicking here

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