Confession Time – Area 9 Investigation ‘Lack of Transparency’ Admission

Highways England fail to put their own house in order.  26/10/2015 the Public Authority were informed – Kier Highways Ltd charging of Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers and Insurers) was excessive, wrong.  But did they listen? No!  Tim Reardon, the Authority’s General Counsel wrote:

I am looking at the various emails you have sent on the subject of Green claims, particularly those sub-threshold.  We are also looking into the various issues raised in your report dated 26 October 2015. I am hoping to be in a position to respond to you in relation to the principal issues you raise over the next couple of weeks. 

Our 55 page report to Highways England can be read here (registered users only).

3 years ago, Highways England had the facts and ignored them.  Worse still, they assisted the continued abuse and profiteering.  A sham (white-wash) of an audit 01/2016 (copy here), misrepresentation of the rates they were charged and subsequently refusing to listen whilst expressing confidence in their contractor … but all the time they kept secret a section of the contract designed to protect Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers and insurers) from exaggerated claims, from those who would profiteer.  ‘Coincidentally’ … their contractor, under the nose of Highways England, did not abide with the hidden process.

Highways England is a Public Authority, the government company charged with operating, maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads. Formerly the Highways Agency, they became a government company in April 2015. However, this 5,000 strong Public Authority has failed the public and likely the public purse by burying its head in the sand and ignoring concerns for almost 5 years.

So here we go again … 10/2015, having caught Kier Highways out, standing up to their aggressive conduct, we forced them to abandon their obviously flawed, contract non-complaint process.  Now, over 3 years later, it is Highways England admitting, the system is flawed.  The threats, false information and derogatory statements from Highways England having failed to stop us and as the weight of evidence mounts, they have ‘put their hands up’ 08/04/2019 writing:

Following complaints from loss adjusters, Highways England commissioned an independent investigation into the pricing in Area 9 of below threshold (i.e. below £10,000) claims for damage to the strategic road network (sometimes referred to as Damage to Crown Property (DCP) or Green Claims).

The investigation revealed a lack of transparency in the pricing of Green Claims in Area 9, citing the lack in the Asset Support Contract of any schedule of rates (labour or materials) for third party repairs.


Highways England overlooked mentioning the time line:

  • 10/2015 we raised concerns
  • 01/2016 their audit failed to identify issues
  • 04/2017 we again highlighted issues
  • 06/2017 we met the Authority and explained / evidenced the exaggeration and fraud
  • 11/2017 we explained the problems to their auditor, KPMG (independent?)
  • 01/2018 false allegations were made about us
  • 03/2018 further false allegations were made
  • 11/2018 at  at a Tribunal Highways England say ‘DCP rates are NOT commercially sensitive’
  • 09/2018 the CEO reported the investigation was concluded.  They had written to contractors asking them to act nicely, be good (something to that effect)
  • 01/2019 the Authority said the investigation as not concluded
  • 04/2019 the authority discovered we have no rates for DC works:
    • nothing to check was we have been charged against
    • nothing to check whether Third Parties have invoiced correct and
    • no way of knowing if Kier’s figures for claims & recoveries (which could affect what we pay them) is correct!

It gets worse … not only can Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers and insurers) not confirm they are being charged correctly, Highways England are unable to do so either!  The Authority wrote 08/04/2019:

As none of the ASCs contain schedules of rates, and Highways England considers that the lack of transparency applies equally to above threshold claims (i.e. those above £10,000) claims as well as claims below threshold it was considered that a review covering all areas was required. To read more click here.

The Public Authority claims to have entered into an agreement where these is no schedule of rates they can compare what they are charged against! It appears that since 07/2014 (Area 9) they have been blindly paying (rubber stamping) invoices for payment, unable to ascertain whether the rates on any one day are appropriate.


In the meantime is it any wonder we have no answers to simple questions about the claims Highways England are presenting:

26/03/2019 to Highways England Our Ref X03A858:

We remain without any evidence the rates:

• have been checked and confirmed correct by Highways England pre-payment of the invoice
• are consistent with the ‘defined costs’ ; we have not been provided the schedule of rates, the pricing schedule, applicable at that date.

Please provide:

1. evidence Highways England have checked and approved the costs pre-payment

2. the schedule of Defined Costs for the date of incident and date of repair (if different), or in the alternative, explain how they have been calculated and provide supporting information i.e. if by reference to base rates at the commencement of the contract, please supply these and explain how they have varied for the dates of loss and claim

With regard to staff costs, how these have been allocated cannot be discerned as we are without time sheets. We are aware that admin’ staff may find it difficult / impossible to record their every moment, each association with a file but we question how the hours assigned have been allocated

The above remain unanswered.

 

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