Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 520 - 539)



  520. What about the head of internal audit?
  (Mr Matthews) The head of internal audit moved to another post and is still employed in government.

  521. He volunteered to move to another post.
  (Mr Matthews) From the records there was discussion with him over an extended period during 1998.

  522. He did not move voluntarily to another post.
  (Mr Matthews) He agreed to move to another post following discussion with his senior managers.

  Mr Donohoe: Who wanted him to be moved?

  Chairman: I think we are quite clear thank you Mr Matthews.

Mr Donohoe

  523. Did he move of his own accord or not, yes or no?
  (Mr Matthews) There was a series of discussions which I read on the file, the result of which was that he agreed to move.


  524. He was told to go, was he not?
  (Mr Matthews) No, that is not what the files indicate.

  525. He was not told to go but he did not move voluntarily.
  (Mr Matthews) There were discussions with him about his general level of performance which was not entirely related to the conduct of the audit.

  526. But might have had the odd tangential involvement in the fact that £7 million of public money had been lost.
  (Mr Matthews) No, that is not an inference I can draw from the discussions he had with his senior managers at the time.

Mr Bennett

  527. He got a raw deal, that is what it amounted to, was it not?
  (Mr Matthews) In fairness, what I have to say is that there is clear evidence on the file which I have seen of anxieties about the general level of performance of this individual, which were supported by his senior professional manager.

Mr O'Brien

  528. Before or after the incident?
  (Mr Matthews) During, before and after the incident.


  529. I am not sure why you are being quite so careful about this. What was his civil service assessment the year before this decision was taken?
  (Mr Matthews) I am not sure.

  530. You can tell us. You can give us a short account in straightforward English because we are not civil servants and we do like simple statements of how this occurred and what happened subsequently.
  (Mr Matthews) Yes, I can do that and it is very clearly documented.

  Chairman: If it is clearly documented that must be an improvement.

Mr Olner

  531. How do you manage to prioritise your differences in regional funding?
  (Mr Thorndike) Basically what we do is look at the condition of our asset. Here I am talking about maintenance. We have a comprehensive system of monitoring the condition of the network and then the money is allocated in accordance with need.

  532. What input comes from local authorities or wherever into that equation?
  (Mr Thorndike) In the maintenance and management of the asset and looking after the value of the asset, we do that ourselves. There is no discussion. The other elements, our improvements to the network, really fall into three main areas: large investment schemes; smaller improvement schemes and maintenance.

  533. What sort of difference is there between the regions of England on how much money you allocate?
  (Mr Thorndike) It varies from year to year.

  534. Is there a north/south divide?
  (Mr Thorndike) No, there is not. May I just explain? Mr Matthews has explained how the major investment is done. On the smaller, making better use of the network side, we develop programmes which we then discuss with our government offices before finalising the programmes. We develop proposals, we discuss them with the local office, we discuss them with the government offices, we discuss them quite often with the county councils, particularly where they would have an impact on any local authority roads.

  535. What better ways do you think you could bring in to improve your communication with the stakeholders? Nobody knows anything about you. You were asked earlier who prioritises that road A comes to the top of the list.
  (Mr Thorndike) Over the last few years we have done a lot to improve our communications with our stakeholders.


  536. There is obviously some way to go.
  (Mr Thorndike) There are always ways we can improve but we have set up our business such that we have four regional directors whose prime job is communication and liaising with the regional administrative organisation from the regional planning bodies, the regional development agencies, the county councils, and all those bodies are impressed with the way—

Mr Olner

  537. I have to ask where a group of residents who live by a fairly noisy trunk road and want as their priority to get it resurfaced with quieter running surfaces fit into the chain? What is the chain on getting something done that local residents are up in arms about?
  (Mr Thorndike) We have a series of area managers and they frequently go out and visit parish councils, talk about the work we do, the programmes of activities and through that method have communication with local residents.

  538. How do those people influence your priorities on getting the work done? I have a section of the A5 in my constituency. Noisy road, the A5 has been there a long while, I admit, but those villages now are being subjected to noise when there are the technical and physical means to quieten road surface running. How is that going to come to the top?
  (Mr Thorndike) What the Ten-Year Transport Plan does is give us the target of resurfacing 60 per cent of our network, that includes all concrete roads, with quieter surfacing within that ten-year period.

  539. So the poor old 40 per cent are going to wait for ever, are they?
  (Mr Thorndike) Whenever we do maintenance, whenever we resurface a road, we now put on the quieter surfacing.

  Chairman: We want to talk to you about quiet surfaces in a minute.

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