Below is the DfT’s anonymous response to our concerns National Highways:
- permitted (and are permitting) some contractors to abuse their position and present inflated costs to drivers, fleets, hauliers or their insurers
- failed to comply with their own complaints process
- General counsel’s team is addressing complaints against the General Counsel’s team!
In response to our email to Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the DfT wrote 23/02/2022, citing ours of 26/02/2022 (an indication of the dismissive consideration and lack of professionalism applied to the issues) as follows:
Thank you for your email of 26 February 2022, addressed to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, concerned with complaints against National Highways. Your enquiry has been passed to the Correspondence Team, Strategic Roads division for a response.
Following your email, Department officials raised your concerns with National Highways, with whom we know you have corresponded with frequently for a number of years (in its previous iterations). The General Counsel Team at National Highways are currently reviewing all your complaints and outstanding correspondence, with a view to resolving all outstanding items. Whilst this will take time, the General Counsel team will be seeking to categorically set out National Highways’ position on each of the issues raised. National Highways will aim to keep you up to date on the progress of your complaints.
The Dft has ignored that the General Counsel’s team appears to be the problem and is the subject of many complaints – the pertinent timeline can be read here. National Highways have repeatedly failed to keep to the agreed update schedule and their ultimate position will likely be self-protective. However, we will await the formal response from the lawyer in the General Counsel Directorate of National Highways appointed to review the conduct of her associate and senior.
The DfT response continued, commenting upon National Highways and Kier’s involvement in bribery; it has been reported Kier, ‘manipulated’ tender processes (plural), awarded a subcontract worth £1.4 million in breach of rules and that this was ‘influenced by bribery’. Whilst evidence supports the allegations made it was apparently insufficient to identify individuals.’ Read more here. About this, the DfT wrote:
We note you have made reference to a Daily Mail Article of 23 January 2022, on an investigation into the behaviour of National Highways’ supply chain on one of its projects. We can assure you that National Highways take any suggestion of criminal behaviour on its projects extremely seriously and investigate every allegation thoroughly. National Highways’ team of highly trained, accredited counter fraud professionals from its Corporate Assurance team consulted the Police during their investigations. National Highways suppliers and contractors play an important role helping it to drive innovation and deliver against its plan. National Highways’ values and imperatives will continue to underpin these important and collaborative relationships.
National Highways regularly review its investigative approach to ensure it is continually improving its processes and practices to prevent the loss of public money. When it selects suppliers, National Highways ensure they have appropriate policies, processes and procedures in place to manage the risk of economic crime and deal with any employee-related matters.
National Highways’ anti-bribery policies appear ineffective – whilst they have apparently acknowledged Kier offered bribes and Authority staff accepted them, the individuals involved cannot be identified! Some information about the anti-bribery policies can be read here:
- JPT-Highways-Agency-Anti-Bribery-Code-of-Conduct (1)
- Counter Fraud Bribery and Corruption Policy and Response Plan November 2018
With regard to Kier Highways profiteering from claims against road users, the DfT wrote:
On your comments on pricing and contract compliance against Kier Highways, National Highways has advised us that this is a current tribunal matter, for which the hearing took place in January and the judgment is awaited. National Highways has accordingly advised us that it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.
The Tribunal Hearing was not about pricing and contract compliance. It is not known whether the above comment is another National Highways ‘smoke and mirrors’ reply or simply the DfT failing to understand the situation. The tribunal hearing has progressed because National Highways has refused to disclose the KPMG report that followed our 2017 allegations that resulted in the Authority appointing KPMG to audit (our
Thank you for taking the time to write in with your concerns.
Correspondence Team, Strategic Roads, Economics and Statistics
Department for Transport
1st Floor, Great Minster House
33 Horseferry Road
26/01/2022 – Motorway bosses are under investigation for their handling of alleged fraud, bribery and corruption by smart motorway construction firms. Read more here