“It will possibly go up by a handful of billions,” the boss of Sellafield – or the boss of the authority that is the boss of the company that is the boss of Sellafield – told a worn-down Public Accounts Committee.
The committee’s wave of wrath had broken half an hour before on the rock of John Clarke, MD of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. This public servant had just re-let a fat contract to a company called Nuclear Management Partners whose main commercial purpose is to loot the public purse while getting in as much golf as possible.
So egregiously bad is this company that KPMG’s report on them had them failing in every significant way, adding no value, taking on no risk and bringing in no expertise. Their bonuses would be reduced therefore to just £30m this year but they’d have to get their golf handicaps into single figures.
The report, incidentally, was extracted only by a Freedom of Information request from the committee, and received moments before the hearing began (twenty minutes late, perhaps for that reason).
It was, for Margaret Hodge, a “terrible indictment” of the company’s poor governance, fractured relationships, hopeless interfaces, and fleeing executives.
Why hadn’t the committee been shown this charge sheet – if by no one else than by the Permanent Secretary Stephen Lovegrove. That youthful smoothy chops said there had never been any intention to conceal, to be secretive to be anything other than transparent, that – Dogs! Eat him!
Hodge asked Clarke several times whether he’d come under pressure from the Perm Sec to keep the gravy train rolling through NMP. When he denied it Hodge said, “I’m hearing quite the opposite on the outside.”
That’s as close to calling the man a liar as you can come. Hodge gets a bit of stick for these performances. I think she deserves a damehood.
The evasive, untrustworthy public service denials were not dissimilar to those wretched police officers lying through their teeth to the Home Affairs committee.
That particular story is coming to a climax tomorrow at 2.45 in front of Vaz’s committee.
Alas, the decommissioning of Sellafield has a half life of 25 governments.