‘Transparency, in a business or governance context, is honesty and openness.
Transparency and accountability are generally considered the two main pillars of good corporate governance.‘ (source)
In 2015 we submitted a substantial report to Highways England conveying our concerns about systematic overcharging of Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers or their insurers) following Damage to Crown Property (DCP ) incidents. We reinforced our concerns writing, for example:
We expected the Public Authority to act; be transparent and ensure the exaggeration progressed in their name stopped. However, rather than address the issues the Authority ignored matters or sought to undermine our valid concerns thereby enabling the abuses (overstatement and fraud) to continue – to this day.
But in late 2018, the Authority found themselves confronted by a combination of circumstances that meant they had to do something:
- their FoIA exemption of ‘commercially sensitive’ used numerous times to withhold ‘held’ rates, fell away when an Authority employee conveyed the obvious; the rates appear on 1,000’s invoices, why would they be considered sensitive?
- their use of the ‘vexatious’ exemption backfired; the ‘accusation’ was dismissed and the Authority was criticised (read more here)
- the Authority was taking claims in-house, they had no contractor to hide behind.
What were they to do? The answer:
- Claim that there was no schedule of DCP rates,
Accept the embarrassment (negligence) associated with not agreeing to rates rather than disclose the price list and the world realise the extent of overcharging that occurred under the ‘management’ of Jim O’Sullivan – the abuse of the public the Authority should have been protecting?
- acknowledge a lack of transparency and assure Third-Parties this would occur
The lack of transparency we conveyed in early 2016 was (at last) acknowledged) but did not follow. Jim O’Sullivan (CEO of Highways England) acknowledged the lack of transparency. The Authority wrote 24/06/2019 that transparency would occur – but then hid costs behind ‘composite rates’. We were assured these rate make-up would be provided but it was not. The Authority’s web sites currently (21/12/2019) displays the statement:
- ‘It has been apparent for some time that insurers consider the pricing of Green Claims in individual cases to lack transparency’ – yes, since early 2016!
- ‘This lack of transparency led to concerns in the insurance industry that drivers and insurers were not being correctly charged for repairs’.
- ‘The aim was (and remains) to bring much greater transparency and consistency to repair costs and thus provide confidence to the insurance industry that what is being charged is reasonable and therefore should not be the subject of further dispute’.
- ‘We will revert to pursuing claims based on the actual cost of carrying out the repairs and will continue to explore options for a transparent and equitable set of rates.’
However, it does not appear the Authority has any intention of being transparent as the exaggeration and fraud would be more easily identified and the tens of £millions owed to drivers, fleets, hauliers and insurers (Third Parties) identified.
- Create a set of rates …
The 24/06/2019 schedule of rates was so obviously badly presented that we raised a multi-page report for the Authority (with recommendations) within a couple of days. We predicated its demise and this occurred 31/10/2019 – the Authority’s attempt at ‘doing a Kier’ failed.
We doubt the Authority can be transparent … rather it appears they are taking the 5th.