We’ve had Environment Officers and Flood Officers share their experiences, we now have an EA Ops Delivery staff member who would like to share their experiences. Hopefully the first in a long line of what our new Ops member would like to share:

Hi. I work for the EA and have seen alsorts of abuse. I work in ops and spend most of my days miserable I’m hard working and enthusiastic but Iv had most of that sucked out of me. On a daily basis my colleagues steal equipment, go home early, have hours for brew and dinner turn up drunk or even go to the pub at dinner. Spend most of the day asleep or shopping or not even where there ment to be. They steal petrol and diesel, they book overtime that they never did or add more to the time they have done. My line manager is more bothered about his own career that he neglects the aspirations of others looking to progress, there’s also people in leadership roles who don’t do there job properly and more suitable candidates are overlooked as I’v read on here and I agree with its who you know not how good you are. I would like to add much more if you would allow me ? Please let me know cheers

“I wish the public could see the total wasteful nature of the environment agency, this is just a quick post but hopefully it will show you just a glimps of wasting money. Recently some ops departments stopped having there own equipment and started to hire it, the cost for this is massive for example hiring a strimmer for week costs £50 we have these on hire all year and at the moment we have four so there’s £2400 x 4 = £9600 a year, may not seem much but when you think we could buy our own and service them ourselves at a fraction of the price, also adding in that we have all been trained to use and service them ourselves. When a colleague spoke to our line manager about this he was told “what can I do about it” ? This is just one small example and I’m going to add more because it frustrates me so much, nobody seems accountable for anything, if it was a private company it could not operate in this way and would have gone bust years ago.”

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December and January are turning into a very busy month for new joiners crossing from within the Environment Agency to Inside the EA, here are four more that wish to join our team. Seems last years EA warning to all staff to avoid this website has begun to fade:

Alan: “As a former employee of the Environment Agency I continue to be appalled, but not surprised by the way that the Agency refuses to acknowledge or act on its many shortfalls. I draw the analogy of E.A. Management being like the Band that played on the deck of the Titanic. It is only a matter of time before E.A. becomes topical again and falls under the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It would be nice to think that at some point the media will seek to corroborate some of the claims within this blog. What a compelling episode of Panorama it would make. I consider the following example to typify how E.A have no apparent interest in dealing with rogue staff members. In 2014 I made a number of formal complaints to E.A regarding a member of E.A management. The nature of the accusations were regarding an individual who made sexist and derogatory comments to a female member of staff in front of other staff. I also made a complaint regarding the misuse of items that were potentially to be used as evidence regarding a pending court case. Both allegations could easily be corroborated as other E.A. Staff had knowledge. Despite submitting a detailed report and offering to meet management in person I was informed that they would conduct a thorough investigation but would not inform me of the outcome. How can anyone conduct a though investigation without ever wishing to meet the complainant in person. The term ‘lack of transparency’ springs to mind as I write this article.

Col “It’s soul destroying for the ops teams who want to protect people from flooding because of all the red tape. Water voles are the reason the rivers are not dredged and spawning fish are the reason why gravel can’t be taken out. When people flood it’s the operations teams that are the ones out on the front line taking all the abuse from people and there the lowest paid of all. I was at Somerset and Iv been at other affected areas and I can tell you, you won’t see managers out in flooded areas, because they don’t want the hassle from the public and can’t give valid answers to questions, many of them couldn’t manage to run a bath. ops guys = cannonfodder

James “Hi. I work for the EA and have seen alsorts of abuse. I work in ops and spend most of my days miserable I’m hard working and enthusiastic but Iv had most of that sucked out of me. On a daily basis my colleagues steal equipment, go home early, have hours for brew and dinner turn up drunk or even go to the pub at dinner. Spend most of the day asleep or shopping or not even where there ment to be. They steal petrol and diesel, they book overtime that they never did or add more to the time they have done. My line manager is more bothered about his own career that he neglects the aspirations of others looking to progress, there’s also people in leadership roles who don’t do there job properly and more suitable candidates are overlooked as I’v read on here and I agree with its who you know not how good you are. I would like to add much more if you would allow me ? Please let me know cheers

Liz: “I am an EO at the EA. I have what I think is some very eye opening information, which underlies unjustified cuts to EO teams due to mismanagement of funds. I am a very very hard working and dedicated EO, a full time working and this year sadly become a single mum of 2 young children. There are some amazing hard working staff in our team and others who are very lazy. I recently questioned how the cuts can be justified given the massive fees our operators are paying for permits and how we can justify not delivering the service they pay for. I was told we are not affordable. I have requested funding stream info under FOI and they have refused. I actually stumbled across some figures on a well hidden spreadsheet anyway and it would appear that income from operators far more than pays for the staff in our teams to be affordable with plenty of funds to spare. There has recently been rumours that finances have been mismanaged locally and they now looking to recoup. I am very saddened that it is frontline staff that have to suffer this. I now believe I am being engineered out of the team through the redundancy process because of what I know, despite being told previously I am one of the most promising EOs they have ever seen. As a single mum i have received no support from my manager through my personal circumstances and I now sit in great fear at the prospect of being made redundant. I will lose my home, my car, my funding and my career and they don’t seem to care. The assessment process for redundancy is a complete subjective farce to pick who they want. I have the best performance record and I have never had a single day off sick. These issues are literally but a few, I could go on and on and give much greater detail of unfair processes & poor efficiency. I am trying to tackle the issue of the cuts being in the wrong places etc when we have so many staff sat in ivory towers doing absolutely nothing??? Please please can you help in any way?

We’d like to encourage more Environment Agency staff to come forward, but critically, we would advise that using the whistleblowing process (as haphazard and questionable as it is) will offer some protection. Of course, we pride ourselves on maintaining absolute anonymity here and only post as one voice – Inside the EA.

Please, keep your heads up and expose what you feel is necessary to have these grave injustices corrected, otherwise even more good people will be forced out of the Environment Agency, leaving only ever more incompetent and wasteful staff in your place, further bringing down the organisation down.

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So tomorrow is the final day by which the Environment Agency have promised to provide a response to our request for a list of all flood defence projects that are/have been over budget in 2012/13 and 2013/14, having already delayed the initial request. We thought it only prudent that we remind the Environment Agency of the request before we start complaining to our MPs and the ICO about this blatant lack of transparency or respect for legislative procedures (surprise, surprise):

Dear National Requests,

Tomorrow is the final day of your own deadline. Please can this be
looked into and a response as to the likely outcome given.

Should no response be provided, we will have no choice but to
escalate this to our MPs and the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

InsidetheEA

Judging by the lack of response so far, and the continued failings we have found, it would appear that this behemoth of public disgrace has done nothing to correct the cultural failings highlighted on this blog and elsewhere over the years. We should perhaps put our MPs on notice about the pending action, as it seems unlikely that we will receive an appropriate response before the due date: Penny Mordaunt MP, Hugh Bayley MP, Oliver Colville MP, Alison Seabeck MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger MP and Dr Julian Huppert MP, to name but a few of the MPs our supporters will be seeking assistance from.

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It’s now the 4th of January 2015 and the culture at the Environment Agency has yet to change for the better. More EA staff who are unhappy with the status quo are coming forward, and more exposure is being shone on the inefficiences, failures and incompetence of the Environment Agency itself.

Here are just three of the most recent comments made by 2 confirmed EA/ex-EA staff and another unconfirmed EA staff member, Len:

Len “Hi I have worked for the EA for many years now and the amount of stealing and misuse of EA property happens all the time. Management turn a blind eye to it because they are just as guilty to it unless your face doesn’t fit. My Team leader had a grudge against someone in their team and decided to report them for misuse of EA property, fraudulent use of procurement card and theft. This person was immediately suspended on full pay for six weeks whilst management tried to sort it out. This person was eventually reinstated because they could not single out one person out for doing this as it happens all the time, at least they got six extra weeks paid leave out of it. So as you can see from this what hope is there for this culture to ever change

Alan Sweetums: “I have monitored this site with interest from its conception. I now feel compelled to contribute to the blog with a view to submitting a more in depth report at a later stage.Having been employed by the Environment Agency fo a period of two years I can put my hand on my heart and say that in my opinion the Organisation is a  shameful waste of taxpayers money. Having previously worked in both the public and private sector I have never before witnessed anything like it. It would appear that the managent fall into one of two categories, those who are oblivious to what is really going on, and those that don’t want to rock the boat. I would like to applaud those that manage this site for giving up their time to highlight the incompetence of those that live on planet E.A.

ExEO: “I think what people outside the EA fail to realise is that the people who work there do not have the publics interest at heart. There is too much office politics (above the norm for any organisation, let alone a public one). People are not employed based on merit or ability, but on who you know and whose back you have scratched. This internal mentality has resulted in fiefdoms, paranoia and poor leadership. All the good people leave early and all the poor performers stay on longest (employment for life pretty much no matter how shoddy your work is).

Yes, new equipment, but most of the old equipment seems to disappear. Many, many questionable activities at the Environment Agency but no one has took the time to look into them. In fact, most are well known but ignored by management. The phone contracts with Vodafone are a real rip off for government. They are so generous staff are allowed to use their work mobiles for all kinds of personal use, including premium phone calls without charge. Same with lease cars. Some are damaged with no repercussions for staff. It’s all a joke!

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Most regular visitors will be aware of our outstanding FoI request to find out how many flood defence projects have gone overbudget and by how much (List of all flood defence projects that are/have been over budget in 2012/13 and 2013/14) made on 6th November 2014. The Environment Agency failed to provide the information by the due date of 4th December 2014 (as expected – see our old post Good luck with Freedom of Information requests to the Environment Agency), so we escalated the FoI request on 6th December 2014 allowing the Environment Agency until 6th January 2015 for a response. They are cutting it remarkedly close to this new cut off date, and as of yet, no response.

None of this surprises any of us here. We have worked inside the Environment Agency and know how the internal system works, and we are well aware of how controversal FoI requests (or any controversal information destined for external purposes) is treated – this is ignoring the cosy relationship the Environment Agency has with leading media outlets (BBC especially comes to mind).

Let the Environment Agency be aware of this fact – we will get the information, through whatever legal means is necessary, and we will do our best ensure that the information provided is legitimate and has not been tampered with, as we are all too aware of the “managed” information you have released in the past.

As usual, our ethos is that no organisation that receives public funds should be allowed to be as opaque, or as poorly managed, as the Environment Agency, hence the reason behind this blog and the exposure provided by its many supporters who have, or are still working, inside the Environment Agency.

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Nobody seems to know and the Environment Agency have decided thus far that it does not want to provide the information as per the Freedom of Information request that was sent on 6 November 2014 – List of all flood defence projects that are/have been over budget in 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Any organisation that handles investments and/or construction projects should have some controls, systems and accounting procedures that allow for the summary of key performance indicators (KPIs) for past, current and future projects. Quick dissemination of these figures should not be an issue.

Of course, this is highly disconcerting for three reasons: our experiences working within the Environment Agency have shown poor practices, inefficiencies and cover ups are widespread, this is a £1 billion organisation funded primarily with public money, and this government has injected/proposed to inject billions more for flood defence schemes.

If these projects are not accurately tracked (especially considering the use of third-parties in many projects), then how do we know, as the public, that we are receiving value for money? Could it be that the wasteful nature of the Environment Agency is leaving large swathes of this country unprotected not due to lack of funding, but purely due to the improper allocation and efficient use of the funding they already receive?

We have updated the Freedom of Information request asking that these figures be provided in a prompt manner, as per the law, but we will see what, if anything comes back. Maybe they will have an excuse that it is too expensive to collate this information, but from a strategic point of view, this should not be the case and this kind of information SHOULD be readily available to senior management, directors and ministers, so should be available for the public, and if it is not, then a HUGE question mark has been raised as to how effectively OUR money is used to protect this country against flooding.

As an update on a current running fiasco, the Morpeth flood defence that was forecast to go £5m over budget could now be £6 million over budget. How many more have been or will be in this situation? What lessons have been learned from prior budget overruns?

Watch this space – fingers crossed that the Environment Agency have some kind of strategic monitoring of projects in place!

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A major theme we have been reporting about our experiences working inside the Environment Agency is the lack of any control procedures or accountability. This is never more evident than when it comes to equipment given to Environment Agency staff – especially field staff. Mobiles, digital cameras, tools, you name, they are handed out with minimal accountability that many staff have “borrowed” (stolen) the items. Items found to be missing are simply replaced – no investigations and minimal/no auditing or paper trail to trace the missing equipment. Each of these pieces have values in the hundreds, some thousands.

For example, it’s a common method to simply order a new digital camera (worth £200+) and claim not to have received it when it turns up, to then be allowed to order a new digital camera (same with any piece of equipment, whether PPE, tools, etc). Others simply “lose” equipment (keeping it for their own use) and then order replacements. On the rare occasions, we have even heard about Environment Agency staff repeatedly losing equipment, getting replacements and selling the old equipment.

Management of “redundant” equipment is in an even worse mess – stored in open access locations with minimal/no control measures, whereby some staff help themselves to this equipment for use at home. Again, some have been known to take the equipment and sell it on.

God forbid when it comes to office restructuring/moves, where staff have been allowed to procure furniture and equipment at far below market value, some even being allowed to take home furniture and equipment free of charge – this isn’t equipment with limited value, some are worth considerable amounts, many of which have to be replaced because they were needed.

Perhaps this is an issue with the nature of the outsourced purchasing/suppliers the Environment Agency employs (IT procurement is even worse), but public employees cannot be forgiven for “stealing” taxpayer funded equipment. Ultimately, we believe this is part of the Quango ‘mess’ we find in this country, due to the minimal accountability and lack of any independent auditing.

Will this be investigated? Of course not. There is no accountability to anyone outside the organisation (despite what is written down) and no senior manager will put their position, or future prospects on the line to “embarrass” the organisation because there is no personal gain to be had. Keep in mind that most of these behaviours we have exposed on here have been ongoing since the founding of the Environment Agency and are well ingrained within its nature. Many senior managers today were  on the lower rungs in the past doing the exact same things that we expose now.

Luckily, whistle-blowers have one crucial advantage on their side: TIME. If history is teaches us anything, it is that government wrongdoing is eventually exposed, but will the people on watch who allowed this be punished?

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Not only is the Environment Agency still misallocating state-funds (through poor investment decisions, poor prioritisation of projects, staff abuses of working time/holiday polices and procedures, over-staffing, etc.) that goes undiagnosed and tackled, but to make matters worse, are considering increasing fees of its monopolistic permits to protect the status quo (rather than tackle the “mess”), which ultimately feeds back to you and me on the streets. But, all this is nothing new, and there is a long-trail of data that ministers can look at both internally and what has slithered through to the media/public. But, unfortunately, the biggest injustice is that this kind of behaviour is replicated throughout quango-world despite this governments promise to take an axe to those that are no longer fit for purpose.

This is a huge, missed opportunity to tackle our nation’s deficit through a well overdue pruning of quangos that are unelected and, for all intents and purposes, uncontrollable. So, understanding this premise, it is frustrating to see numerous reports highlighting these facts over the years (especially most recently), with still no action being taken. Just two weeks ago, there was ANOTHER report released highlighting that the quango system continues to lack accountability, and that it is still in a “mess”Quangos system in a mess: MPs Report (Quangos are a mess and cost billions, say MPs)

The first few paragraphs say it all really:

“Dredging of the River Parrett was highlighted in a report which said the system for overseeing state-funded public bodies is in a ‘mess’. The system for overseeing state-funded public bodies is in a “mess” and lacks accountability, according to MPs. Billions of pounds are ploughed into hundreds of arms-length organisations.”

Even Parliament’s very own website has a section covering “the case against quangos” but it seems the public will continue to suffer the injustice and be shackled to this continuing “mess” of a system that is no longer (or ever was?) fit for purpose through the poorly allocated and bad decisions made by unelected, and unaccountable bodies.

Perhaps my colleague’s idea that the whole point of state bodies, such as quangos, is to solely absorb the failed policies of mass higher education, whereby without these jobsworth organisations, there would be further acute unemployment among graduates, hence the lack of action against quangos like the Environment Agency that itself employees over 11,000 people who find it difficult to keep a busy schedule (as can be witnessed by the open abuse of the working policies and the experiences of EA staff on here and elsewhere).

How many reports, mistakes and misspent public funds will it take for this “mess” to be dealt with?

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Here are the latest insights from other Environment Agency staff:

Felix: “An important piece of advice for permit holders, fishers etc – ALWAYS CHALLENGE THE DECISION THAT WE MAKE, BECAUSE 9 times out of 10 WE’VE MADE A MISTAKE, and its YOU who will pay IF YOU DO NOT CHALLENGE IT. Take it from someone who has 10 years experience working for the EA doing prosecutions.

Another thing – if the EA want to save loads of cash, then they should GET RID OF LEASE CARS THAT SIT IDEAL 90% OF THE TIME, and buy POOL CARS for every office. Every single FIELD OFFICER HAS A LEASE CAR THAT THEY ONLY USE A HANDFUL OF TIMES A MONTH!

Al: “Hi I worked as a data officer a few years ago and left the job because there was so little challenge. I could have turned up for work for 6 months, done nothing and nobody would have noticed and if my line managers did notice they would not have challenged it because there is just not a culture of accountability at the environment agency. I have read here about employees using contracted hours for personal things and that is exactly the sort of practice that was going and I am not proud to say that I engaged in this sort of thing. Not because I thought it was right but because the management lets their employees get away with it. I could fiddle expenses, time claims, working hours, work that I had undertaken. There must have been times when I said I was going out to do a 2 hour job and taken 4 hours about it and just chilled for the rest of the time. I was also allowed to claim £5 a day for food expenses (subsistence) for a lunch when out of the office. Is that still allowed? It was not unheard of to have a cheap lunch and get a pizza for dinner later with the same £5. I had a company car to get me about. Admittedly I couldn’t drive it for personal business and at no time did I ever for fear of being liable for third party damage if there was an accident. But even so I had a car that could get me to and from work with £0 servicing and maintenance. This was all paid for through the company. Company phone too! I had to pay for my own calls which was done through some expense system but even that was at a cushty rate so saved me a whole lot of cash. There was also quite a culture of theft of company property. If there was a DIY project that I needed doing I would use company materials instead of getting my own and would not hesitate to use company tools (some of which I still have) to complete the job. Despite the short comings of some EA employees, some of the insults that are being made on this blog in my view are unjust. “Bone idle” and “imbred moron” are not particularly useful description of EA employees and the spelling mistake made when writing “inbred” is an indication of the level of intellect of the people writing them. Back in the late noughties (2006 to 2009) when I worked there things were different. The government had the money (or at least thought they did) to fund such frivolous spending but in this day and age it is clear that such waste in the public sector needs to be reigned in particularly when there are more vital government services that could be improved through extra funding. I am surprised that not much seems to have changed in the 5 years since leaving the EA and it seems the same malpractice seems to prevail. When I worked there there was a hardcore of middle aged middle managers who simply used to EA as a place to tick over in employment at the tax payer’s expense until they are old enough to collect their pension and this culture filters down through the ranks.

John: “You can consider me one of those senior EA manager – worked in various functions for 9 years, the last 3 as a AEM before leaving in 2011. Most functions outside of FCRM are over funded and inefficient (sustainable places, biodiversity, groundwater, fisheries, even EM itself). At least a fifth of the budget could be re-allocated to higher priority projects by reducing these functions without any detrimental impact to their ability to meet legislative requirements. Unfortunately, the Pitt Review from the 2007 floods was rushed, so didn’t go far enough, otherwise, the EA would not again be in the position it is in. That being said, there are some very fine, hard-working and dedicated employees.

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Environment Officers STILL Giving Misleading & Inconsistent Advice – comment from a member (see comments under How Many Environment Agency Staff To Erect A Sign?):

“I am now bankrupt, the business has gone and I am getting nowhere with EA they just do not want to know, they put the fear of God into me mentioning fines and court action, and back dated fines to when I started trading, they went so over the top in the initial raid I thought of nothing other than being dragged through the courts and publicly humiliated no matter what I did next, so I finally closed to limit the action, it was only just before I closed that they seemed to finally listen, they visited again and I listened to the speech again on how bad it will be for me for not closing as the letter stated and clearing out my stock of classic cars (cherished not scrap) half way through hearing the same things over and over I said look I am about to close all the stock will be scrapped I do not want to be dragged through the courts I cannot afford to defend myself, next week I am closing so you do not need to apply for any orders to clear my yard I told them then I would have to go bankrupt, one because I had wound down the business so I was broke, two the bankruptcy that followed I hoped would stop them from taking any further action, at that point they listened the whole mood changed they went from being oh this is bad things are getting worse, to oh we don’t want you to close we didn’t want that, we will go away and see what we can do! I thought see what you can do?? What does that mean?? We’re they having a whip round at work for me? Baking a cake to say bye? We’re they going go offer me a job dredging rivers because I was out of work soon? They went away and I scratched my head thinking what are they going to do now, surely there is nothing they can “see what they can do” if there was surely they would of done it, well they did come back and the spoke to my colleague and said “can you tell J not to worry he does not need to close we are taking no further action” ?????????? Just get a U16 exemption!!!! The same form they mentioned on day one but another team member instantly dismissed as not being possible because I was clearly trading as a scrap yard!!! Because they said that and spoke of nothing but fines and court action I thought I had no options available to me, why apply for something they said I would not get, after all I was a scrap yard!!! Albeit without any scrap!

So it appears they finally listened and realised I wasn’t defying them I thought they were going to throw the book at me as they say, I expected everything they said during the initial raid was going to happen, why wouldn’t I they are the government, if they say it I believe it, I was boxed into a corner and thought I was stuffed no matter what I did next and bankruptcy was the only option, then and only then did they change, why would a team following procedures say don’t worry we are taking no further action keep trading, they finally listened to me, they listen to my fears of all they said to me on day one, those fears built up and up and I broke, I went to work each day thinking I would be raided again but this time they would humiliate me and empty my workshop and unit then stand me in front of a court for trying to scrape a living and how could I fight against .gov

They went too far they intimidated me, they put the fear of God into me saying what they said, they lied about how many people raided my workshop, I closed because of what they said would happen and it didn’t and it sounds like I was never going to happen.”

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