14/05/2019 NAO Meeting Notes

Following an FoIA request, the National Audit Office released their record of a 14/05/2019 meeting with Highways England.  mat kay (NAO) & Sharon McCarthy (Authority).

14/06/2019 – FOI 1249 Response Covering letter:

Thank you for your request of 16 May 2019 to the National Audit Office (NAO) in which you asked:

Please could you provide a copy of your request to and the response from Highways England

Your request was in response to our letter of 16 May 2019, in which we referred to ‘Based on the information you supplied we made inquiries with Highways England’.
Your request is being handled under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

Our inquiries in relation to your correspondence with Highways England (HE) where carried out as a face to face meeting between NAO and HE officers; therefore, there is no request and response to release. However, I have released a copy of the note of the meeting produce by the NAO officer. The note of the meeting can be found attached to the transmission email for this letter.

We have redacted some information from the document we are releasing under Section 40 (Personal information) of FOIA. This redaction is explained in Annex B.
Annex C sets out the steps you should take if you are not satisfied with the way we have handled your request for information under the FOIA.

Meeting Record: 190614 FOI-1249 Response FOI-1249 Doc for release_Redacted minutes of meeting – NAO meeting note  the text of which reads as follows:

Meeting with [s.40(2) redaction], Highways England (note uncleared with HE)
14 May 2019

[s.40(2) redaction], (NAO and [s.40(2) redaction], (HE)

  1. I summarised the concerns raised in the correspondence received regarding Damage to Crown Property Claims. I asked for a full summary of the situation.  
  2. [s.40(2) redaction], explained the following:
  3. HE has two main maintenance contract models: Asset Support Contracts (ASCs) which are in the process of being phased out and are being replaced with Asset Delivery model (ADs).
  4. With respect to claims for Damage to Crown Property (DCP), there is a threshold of £10k below which the service providers pursue the third party to recover costs.
  5. Claims above £10k are submitted to HE by the service provider and are dealt with internally by the Green Claims team.
  6. In submitting the claims to HE, the service provider pulls together a cost pack which summarises the different cost elements –
    1. how many staff were required?
    2. What was the extent of the damage?
    3. What was the cost of repair?
  7. HE’s relevant regional team assesses the cost pack for reasonableness and challenge.
  8. Once they have done this, the claim is sent to the central green claims team who pursue the third party.
  9. ASCs include a schedule of rates – these should be used as the basis for the cost pack (for claims both below and above £10k).
  10. There is an expectation that elements of costs within different claims should be the same, but it is often not the case.
  11. Individual claims differ due to different schedules of rates between areas, and because every incident is different.
  12. HE performed their own review into the service providers’ application of the contracts to these claims.
  13. HE concluded that costs claimed were reasonable, but that improvements could be made. [s.40(2) redaction], assured me that these improvements have been made.
  14. HE is phasing out ASCs and replacing with the AD model.
  15. As part of this, HE has worked to develop a national schedule of rates in consultation with supply chain and insurance industry.
  16. This will be consistent across all areas, and AD contracts are robust in prescribing the use of these rates in both above and below threshold claims.
  17. HE has expanded their internal green claims team and has changed the internal processes to support this; the cost packs will be scrutinised by the maintenance and renewals team who have the relevant knowledge to challenge costs effectively.

But little confidence can be placed upon the word and records of the NAO – once the Authority became aware the NAO had said ‘a schedule of rates exists’, that the NAO was mistaken, their record incorrect … the Auditor U-turned.  He only had one reason for the meeting, the note; to ask about a schedule of DCP rates yet seemingly he discussed a whole different set of rates … astounding – possibly why so many questions remain, as yet, unanswered. 

NAO and the half-truth – read more here