Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)|
MONDAY 30 APRIL 2001
TEBBIT, CMG AND
180. We are talking about the process of disciplinary
hearings, disciplinary procedures, that is what we are talking
(Mr Tebbit) Secondly, the NAO did not, I think, go
about the job of trying to amass a body of prosecution evidence.
This was not conducted as an investigation into the behaviour
of staff with a view to discipline and prosecution. It was conducted
as a way of trying to establish best practice and how to improve
(Mr Tebbit) I have no view myself about the quality
of this information in terms of whether this was serious disregard
for the regulations or that the individuals concerned thought
that they knew better and had other factors in mind. This certainly
would not have been the basis for a formal disciplinary charge
and the NAO did not come to us and say "These people have
been guilty of maladministration". This is part of a value
for money best practice study which we are using to improve our
processes, not to conduct witch hunts.
182. I am sorry, I cannot let you get away with
that. Decent personnel practices are not witch hunts. Decent personnel
practices see when things have gone wrong and they then follow
it through with capability or disciplinary procedures.
(Mr Tebbit) That is what we are doing.
183. It is not a witch hunt.
(Mr Tebbit) We have used this in order to completely
revise our procedures and processes. We have been trying to describe
the mass of action we have in train to do exactly that.
184. We seem to be on different planets.
(Mr Tebbit) We may well be.
185. I accept what you say, that this is a report
carried out in co-operation with the NAO to establish ways of
(Mr Tebbit) Yes.
186. And in many respects, from what you have
said this afternoon, it has been successful in doing that.
(Mr Tebbit) Indeed it has.
187. That was why at the beginning of this afternoon
I thought that we were not going to be able to find much in here
to change what you are doing, but the thing that seems to me to
have come out from this afternoon above all is despite the fact
that you had seen that there was bad practice going on, and in
your words "certain managers simply abrogated their responsibility",
there have been no cases where then, having established that certain
managers had abrogated their responsibility, they were disciplined
for so doing.
(Mr Tebbit) That is correct.
188. Why not?
(Mr Tebbit) Because, as I have said before, this was
not conducted in the form which would give me the reason to discipline
189. Answer me this question, please
(Mr Tebbit) I am sure if the NAO had found evidence
that was the case they would have reported it to us.
190. Given that this is not a basis for disciplinary
procedure, what subsequent investigations have you made into the
practices of those managers to establish whether disciplinary
procedures should be started, or capability procedures should
be started, against such managers who abrogated their responsibility?
(Mr Tebbit) The report was based on examination of
three particular establishments. We went to those establishments
subsequent to the report and checked and carried out our own inspections
of whether procedures were being implemented properly, whether
there was an improvement, and there was an improvement. We went
back again after that and involved the line managers at the highest
level in those areas to ensure that everything was absolutely
correct, and I can now confirm that these things have indeed been
191. Can you confirm, therefore, the level of
estimates now being taken?
(Mr Tebbit) In these establishments, yes. This was
based on looking at three particular establishments.
192. What you are telling me is that prospectively
you have sorted things out but what you are not doing is saying
that retrospectively you have disciplined those managers who failed
in their duty, and that is what I find so worrying. If you have
a culture within the organisation that fails to discipline people
who do not do their duty then that goes absolutely counter to
your own statement on anti-fraud.
(Mr Tebbit) There was never any question that the
individuals were guilty of fraud.
193. Indeed there was not.
(Mr Tebbit) I have to make that absolutely clear because
we are talking about three specific establishments.
194. It was the point I made at the beginning
when I referred you to paragraph 1.3, I accept that.
(Mr Tebbit) Perhaps it was my fault for introducing
an emotive atmosphere using the word "witch hunt", and
I did not mean to do that in a considered way. What I am really
pointing out is that we use this to improve procedures and practice
and explicitly have done so at these three establishments. We
did not use it to discipline people, as it were, in a negative
sense. I am satisfied that the thing has been put right. One has
a choice: was it such a terrible thing which required discipline
or was it something which required people to smarten up their
act, and in this case that is what we have done.
195. I am pushing time here. Could you just
clarify that at RAF Wittering the subcontractor who charged accredited
staff rates for non-accredited staff is still being used as a
subcontractor? Paragraph 2.22.
(Mr Tebbit) It is certainly not being done now because
we have had a clean bill of health from that establishment.
196. That was not what I asked. With respect,
what I asked was is that subcontractor, who charged accredited
staff rates for non-accredited staff, for doing electrical work
I believe it was, still employed by you?
(Mr Andrews) I do not think we can answer that.
197. Could we have a note to the Committee because
it is important in line with your statement on sharp practices
and dishonest, illegal activity, saying that you are going to
pursue all irregularity, fraud, theft.
(Mr Tebbit) That is a very fair point. I will give
you an answer. I did look into this and I did get an answer but
I cannot be absolutely certain whether it is that we dropped them
deliberately or they are no longer working for us. I need to check
198. I have to be very brief because I am going
to run up against the buffers in a moment, I know the Chairman
is looking to pull the noose tight. Simply this though, you are
moving over to prime contracting.
(Mr Tebbit) Yes.
199. One of the things that local governmentand
I do echo the words of Mr Davidsonhas found is that contracts
can be extremely difficult to specify in advance and extremely
tough to monitor and enforce afterwards and it is something this
Committee is very familiar with. Why do you believe that when
things were actually broken, and yet nobody made an estimate of
their costs, that you are going to have a better chance of incorporating
estimates of all the costs of the things that might break but
are not actually broken into a contract in advance?
(Mr Tebbit) Well, we cannot obviously expect to get
everything precisely right but there will at least be an agreement
between us and the prime contractor and his supply chain about
what the position is. There will then be the operation of the
integrated project team with our people there with the prime contractor
able to look at performance against the targets and the assumed
costs as we go along. There will be the possibility to revise
prices upwards or downwards along the way but since we will be
using open book accounting, if we do revise them it will be on
the basis of a genuine agreed requirement to change rather than
sharp practice or anything else. The principle of gain sharing
will mean that the contractor is incentivised for the first time
really to drive down his own costs and ensure that the benefit
of the doubt in these assumptions is always working to both of
our own advantages rather than to something which he keeps to
6 Note by Witness: See Evidence, Appendix
1, pages 25 to 26 (PAC 00-01/169). Back
Note by Witness: See Evidence, Appendix 1, pages 25 to
26 (PAC 00-01/169). Back