Why pay a Highways England claim in the absence of documentation and explanation? An answer is that the Authority will rely upon ‘Coles v Heatherton‘ claiming they only need to use ‘reasonable’ costs for the repair or have their ‘inflating claims to make a profit‘ lawyers do this. Argue with them … and a Court can decide.
But are the costs reasonable? It is evident the Authority’s Green Claims team think not! More worryingly, it appears Highways England have entered into an agreement that sees at least one contractor not required to:
- adjust a claim
- credit an overstatement!
In other words, when we identify valid issues, overstatement, the Authority has no means by which to have the excess payment refunded by their contractor! Is it any surprise contractor invoices are commonly flawed and the Authority provides less and less information to claw back what they have squandered from the public purse? But with limited detail, we are still able to raise valid questions that highlight the mess the Authority appears to be in. For example:
A. Duplicate Traffic management costs; we noted the use of two ‘crash cushion’ vehicles. HE responded:
- somehow the 2 plant items have also been doubled up. Note: ‘also’ in addition to other overstatements.
B. 23 hours claimed for a vehicle during a 10-hour repair. HE responded:
- Simple answer is there is a full shift of TM ops and plant for (date) charged that never should have been paid
C. Charges for a day appeared inappropriate. HE responded:
- If the day is removed the times (highlighted by CMA) seem more realistic. Note: if they did not seem realistic before, why were they paid in the first place?
D. With regard to some of the charges applied and their association with the claim, HE responded:
- In all honesty, not a clue, whatever it is very likely has nothing to do with the repair
All the above over-stated charges were paid by Highways England whose lawyers demanded payment in full. We understand no sub-£25,000 claim is checked pre-payment because it is too expensive to do so! Really? No one has thought reconciling costs before paying would ensure the correct amount of taxpayers monies was spent and recovery would be easier; that the expense of such a review would be overshadowed by the savings and reduction in abuse?
Who at Highways England entered into an agreement with contractors that prevented a return of overpaid sums and enabled the contractor to ignore requests for adjustment? In the above instances, Highways England did not return to the contractor for answers. Highways England have acknowledged:
as white-collar staff the contractor is contractually allowed to ‘spread book’ and we can’t question it
It’s an ongoing issue & another case of having to make adjustments
Shakespeare Martineau’s response ‘…. provide us with your improved offer within 7 days from today. If we fail to receive the same, we are instructed to issue proceedings.’ In what sum we wonder?
We have sought:
- the documentation that should be reasonably available and
- that the Authority reprice the claim, correctly!
It appears appropriate for Highways England to put their own house in order and for this casual attitude toward taxpayers monies to stop.