No Rates, No Transparency & No Accuracy?

Highways England have no rates against which they can check bills presented by their contractors … or do they?

04/08/2019: Request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000  HE letter click here:

In your request you said:

I am referred to http://www.englandhighways.co.uk/area-9-investigationconfusion/. If there is an investigation you hold information. Is the investigation
finished or not?

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.

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.

Whilst the investigation into Area 9 in isolation was concluded it was widened into a root
and branch review to improve the end-to-end process for the recovery of Green Claims
generally. This review is ongoing and a final report has not been produced.


08/04/2019 – another response from Highways England under the same reference, on WhatDoTheyKnow:

Please find attached a copy of the internal review reference: 769,260 of
your Freedom of Information request reference: 768,553. Please accept my
apologies that this has taken a little longer than usual to be provided.

Yours Sincerely,

Jonathan Drysdale
Freedom of Information Officer (HE)
Information & Technology
Highways England | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Internal Review

Further to your email dated 21 February 2019 regarding an internal review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information Act, it has been passed to me to conduct an internal review of the way in which your request (ref 768,553) was handled.

In your e-mail dated 17 January 2019 you asked:

I’m after the information following the last request.
Has the investigation finished?
I can find no report on line about the investigation.
I am after the report, all information and the cost of the investigation.
 

This question was asked in relation to the Area 9 contractors and on 19 February 2019 you received the following response –

‘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’.

 I have taken the opportunity to discuss this with my colleagues and they have provided the following statement as explanation.

Following complaints from loss adjusters, Highways England commissioned an independent investigation into the pricing in Area 9 of below threshold (ie, 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.

None of the ASCs contain schedules of rates, and Highways England considers that the lack of transparency applies equally to above threshold claims (ie, those above £10,000) claims as well as claims below threshold.

Following the investigation, Highways England wrote to service providers under the ASCs reminding them of their obligation to charge the reasonable cost of the repair and not to duplicate or inflate costs.

Whilst the investigation into Area 9 in isolation was concluded it was widened into a root and branch review to improve the end-to-end process for the recovery of Green Claims generally.  This review is ongoing and a final report has not been produced.

To address the transparency issue as soon as possible, Highways England decided that a schedule of repair costs for typical repairs to the infrastructure should be created and published.  This schedule of repair costs will apply nationally to most Green Claims (bearing in mind that the new Asset Delivery Contracts remove any distinction between above and below threshold claims).

The schedule of repair costs will reflect Highways England’s view, informed by service providers and insurers, of what constitutes a “reasonable” cost for a typical repair.  This increased transparency should enable claims to be processed more quickly, with less room for argument and fewer court proceedings.  The new schedules of repair costs will be put on the Highways England website in April 2019 and will be piloted in Areas 3, 7 and 9, with a view to rolling them out nationally after three months.

Having reviewed the response provided by my colleagues I can see that there was a misunderstanding as to what was caught under the term investigation regarding this, please accept my apologies for this. I trust that the addition of the statement above provides clarity to the situation.