Hi I have already left a comment on this site last year, regarding my experiences whilst working at the EA about bullying, abuse of power, wasting tax payers money, etc. . I have now left the EA due to this and feel compelled to tell you more snippets of things I witnessed.
I went on a two day course with accommodation provided for by the EA which is fine this included travel, bed, breakfast, lunch and evening meal all paid for in advance by the EA. There were about 15 – 20 EA staff on the course from all over the country, different EA Regions and Areas being represented, from grade 3 and 4 Officers to grade 5 Specialists and Team Leaders (salaries ranging from approx 20k to 40k). When we sat down for the evening meal which was three courses, about six staff from one Area did not turn up for dinner. I found out later that they had all gone into town for a curry and the pub afterwards payed for by the Team Leader on his EA charge card. This was in 2011 during the governments austerity measures with pay freezes, job cuts etc.. But these staff did not seemed to be bothered about the waste of taxpayers money paying for twice the amount for food and the waste of food. This mentality seemed common amongst many staff in the EA at the time get what you can sod the rest!
Finally, the Environment Agency have responded with data for our FoI request. They have only highlighted 9 flood defence projects (with “authorised cost changes” only, despite our request for ALL cost over-runs, regardless of authorisation) over the period requested with a total overspend of ~£10million (with a number of excuses for why), but we are a little stumped here. We know that the Morpeth flood defence that was forecast to go £6m over budget, is set to cost ~£25 million and should have been in the pipeline before this financial year well before the first shovel hit the ground, so should have been considered in this request, but doesn’t seem to appear on the list, unless we have missed something.
Also, as any construction professional knows (and from what our ex-Flood Defence insider says), the vast majority of large scale projects like these typically go over budget, so to see just 9 projects highlighted over the period, it is highly suspect that this data is the whole picture.
Of course, these figures only covers projects that have cost over-runs (thanks EA for slipping in the Rawcliffe Bridge project that came under budget by ~£100,000 – why they included it we do not know, considering what we asked for, which again, leaves us suspect of the data provided).
Anyway, to say that this FoI was repeatedly delayed over the past few months for a mere 9 projects says a lot about the Environment Agency’s internal reporting and monitoring processes. We will be escalating this to our MPs, because the Environment Agency’s data raises more questions than it answers.
We’re particularly keen on hearing from Flood Defence experts still in the game – either internally or as a subcontractor – who can verify these details, as the one insider with this knowledge has been out for a few years. He thinks that this data is the tip of the iceberg and that the Environment Agency have released a tiny proportion of the projects that have run/are over budget to appease us.