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!