Thursday, 5 May 2011

Can't see the elephant for the smoke and mirrors?

I have long described the absence of a realistic and transparent financial picture of BW's affairs as being an elephant in the room that BW have been doing their best to deny with 'smoke and mirrors'. Allan Richards hit the mark for me in his article revealing that in response to his FOI request DEFRA apparently don't have current figures about the maintenance costs of the waterways.

I sort of have some sympathy with DEFRA trying to knock that one back given past difficulties that have arisen where there has been what one might politely call a difference of understanding between them and BW on maintenance and finance issues. The EFRA Select Committee could not get a straight answer on this and noted:

Communication between Defra and BW must be improved. BW relies on Government for much of its
funding, and therefore has a responsibility to ensure important business decisions and
complex terms, concepts and models are explained clearly to its sponsor Department. The
Department must also ensure those officials who deal with BW on a regular basis have a
thorough understanding of these concepts, so they can brief ministers accordingly.

(Extract from "Summary" in EFRA Committee report on BW 2007, see Page 3, para 2.

Doesn't sound like we are there yet to me if a few weeks after launching a public consultation on the future of BW Defra don't have that information to hand?

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