Public Purse Indifference
Highways England will play the ‘public purse’ card when demanding monies from Third Parties (drivers, fleets and insurers) but to date have failed to address the leakage occurring at source; their rubber-stamping of contractor invoices.
To date, not one invoice we have seen from Kier Highways to Highways England has been accurately priced.
A repair following a barrier collision saw Kier Highways paid £46,000+ by Highways England. Despite most barrier damage being for under £10,000, it appears no alarm bells rang. We explained the overstatement and whilst kept from information, based upon data we possessed at that time, believed the correct sum was about £14,000 i.e. £32,000+ exaggeration!
We had no involvement in the final calculation as Highways England explained due to the ‘problems’ with their contractor, Kier Highways Ltd. (KHL), they would abandon the entire claim. However, we understand that as a result of our involvement Highways England were able to establish that the bill should have been less than £12,000. More exact information could not be obtained as it was claimed KHL’s records had suffered water damage and were unavailable – seemingly no electronic copies were held. (P10B700).
Another matter involving Government Legal Department (GLD) saw a demand made by Highways England of an insurer for £26,557.55, the amount paid to KHL following a repair. Again, a review of the file revealed obvious overstatement. There was little documentation because KHL had not provided the correspondence required under their recovery (TR430) process – yet Highways England paid them in full! The obvious overstatement should not have been presented to the Public Authority or our client. We settled at £19,000. We asked GLD if the Public Authority (Highways England) would be recovering monies overpaid to Kier Highways, in particular about £3,000 for the barrier. GLD replied that whether Highways England seeks to recover ‘is frankly none of your concern’.
It appears as tax-payers, whether ‘our’ money is inappropriately paid to a contractor is of no consequence to us. (T08C128).
Another claim saw duplication of costs. The repair was undertaken at the same time as another, yet Highways England had been billed by Kier Highways for the full cost of items such as Traffic Management which, either in part or whole, would have been applied to the second repair. Highways England appear to have rubber-stamped the invoice for payment and set about demanding the full sum from insurers. The £12,576.11 claim ultimately saw GLD, acting for Highways England, write that insurers would ‘pay the sum of £8,175 in full settlement of all claims which our clients may have’ – more than £4000 less than had been claimed. (U06B782).
A £19,175.30 invoice from Kier Highways paid by Highways England saw us question various aspects, raise a number of concerns. With regard to a question about the charging, Highways England replied:
‘I do not have this information, and am therefore willing for this charge to be disregarded.’
Whilst appreciative of the reduction, why can Highways England not account for a charge they have been presented and paid? How is the charge presented not capable of being supported by the contract? Why (apparently) will Kier Highways not address the question?
Ultimately the entire claim was abandoned – no payment made.(U06B952).
For the past 18 months we have been asking Highways England to address numerous issues associated with a Kier Highways invoice and for it to be re-priced. Highways England have repeatedly told us they had sought the information from Kier Highways and had been assured it would be supplied. Time and time again we were advised the matter would be addressed. However, Highways England have recently emailed
‘ … unfortunately Kier are no longer in contract in Area 1 and the requested cost revision was never completed’
It is evident Kier Highways do not attend to their client’s requests and the Public Authority are powerless to insist their agent reply. (U05B428).