Examination of Witnesses (Questions 520
WEDNESDAY 24 JANUARY 2001
MR T MATTHEWS
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
(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
523. Did he move of his own accord or not, yes
(Mr Matthews) There was a series of discussions which
I read on the file, the result of which was that he agreed to
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
(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.
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.
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
(Mr Matthews) Yes, I can do that and it is very clearly
Chairman: If it is clearly documented that must
be an improvement.
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
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.