Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Where does the buck stop?

On the 18th August  I wrote about the success of FirstGroup in winning the franchise for the West Coast Main Line. I did not understand how this company could do so much better than the current provider, Virgin, and shortly afterwards we heard that Virgin didn't understand it either. Now the Government don't understand it.  The Department of Transport tell us today that the contest was flawed but Richard Branson knew that the system was "flawed and insane for some time".

I know that it is an expensive mistake and just paying the four companies back for the cost of their bids will cost £40 million. Heads may roll. The loss of this money is significant and there may be  more financial implications but responsible people sometimes make genuine errors just like those with less authority.

For me there were two important points. Firstly, what does Justine Greening say now. She was the transport secretary when the winning bid was announced and she described the process as robust and fair. It would be nice to know what she has to say for herself now but I guess she will just be  blaming her civil servants. Where does the buck stop? If it stops with the minister then she should stand by her words and apologise for her error.

Secondly, what is the DfT doing issuing any announcement at midnight? Are we expecting future press releases when most of the nation are tucked up in bed? It sounds like the Government are trying to bury their bad news but wouldn't it be nice if they actually apologised.

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