So there we have it. Another polished masterclass in well-prepared denial has been stealthily delivered; by three devoted servants of the dark arts, all handsomely paid and all now vanishingly distant from the man on the street they are reputed to serve.
Since abject, crazed “fobbing off” runs in such creatures’ bloodstream, the layers of crude, tortuous flannel laid down on the record today were simply… EPIC.
Here’s a link to this afternoon’s Public Accounts Committee discussing the subject of Gagging Clauses and Severance Payments:
Sharon White – Director General, Public Services, HM Treasury
Sir David Nicholson – Chief Executive, NHS England
Una O’Brien – Permanent Secretary, Department of Health
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Defence inexplicably failed to provide ANY information to this committee, despite being given plenty of time to produce it. The DCMS appeared to “draw a blank” and the MOD wrongly assumed that the National Audit Office, who made the enquiries on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, had “no access rights” to the information.
On the strength of this arrogant and strutting “we’ve got the information – now come and get it off us if you’re hard enough” position, public service is now a fast-disappearing shadow of its former self. In fact, the sun appears to be close to setting on “the public interest”.
The Chairman pointed out that she’s expecting to receive a full package of information from these departments the next time the committee sits – on an unspecified Thursday morning in September 2013.
We’re looking forward to that… but what are the chances the MOD and the DCMS will deign to comply?
Worth reading below is the statement from the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge MP, issued prior to today’s meeting. It is strongly worded and neatly summarises the difficulties, departmental evasiveness and media scandals that have mushroomed out of control, due to public bodies’ propensity to lurch into lockdown, and…
- muzzle ex-employees first…
- haemorrhage millions of pounds in public money hand-over-fist second…
- conceal incompetence, wastage, malpractice, abuse and sometimes worse third…
- squirrel information into hidey holes, curtailing subsequent public access fourth…
- erect walls of inertia & bureaucracy to prevent questions being asked later fifth…
- protect their toxic, embattled reputations, come hell or high water sixth…
UPDATE – 5th July 2013
Thanks to tweeter @mdryanuk for the following useful link to the uncorrected transcript of the above committee meeting. Neither witnesses nor Members of Parliament have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
I’ll now search this for giveaway signs that the witnesses have previously been coached by expensive, £1,000 per day consultants on what to say in the lead up to the meeting… as in this case.
Evidence of likely prior coaching?
Number of times Sharon White used the words “clearly / clear / obviously”, etc. = 24
Number of times Sharon White uttered the defensive phrase “As I say / said….” etc. = 6
See Sharon White Freedom of Information request
Number of times Una O’Brien used the words “clearly / clear / obviously” – 12
See Una O’Brien Freedom of Information request
Number of times David Nicholson used the words “clearly / clear / obviously” – 1
Number of times David Nicholson obsequiously praised the committee for “shining a light” on these issues, etc. = 3
Number of times David Nicholson referred to how “complex / complicated” the situation is, etc. = 2
See David Nicholson Freedom of Information request
Maybe David Nicholson was more expertly and counter-intuitively prepared? Who knows?
Watch this space for news of any more taxpayer dosh, squandered hand-over-fist on helping to hide evidence of abuse, and helping wasteful bureaucrats to erect a towering wall of in yer face jargon, silence and bare-faced denial.