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?