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DTI - Department of Terrible Investigators

Our correspondent writes ...

I get really hot under the collar when I see that the bureaucracy does little to earn its keep or enforce the regulations for which it is responsible. And the worst thing is that the bureaucracy is growing all the time - either as new (or enlarged) government departments or alternatively contracted agencies which are little more than quangos, and which usually prove to be twice as useless.

Such was the case when I reported a company who were totally ignoring the employment regulations to the DTI. The company in question - Serco Medway Ltd - had instructed a solicitor (T G Baynes of Dartford) to threaten me with an injunctive court action because I tried to expose their malpractices - click here for details.

I have previously worked for the Ford Motor Company as a contractor and many of my office colleagues were employed by Serco. I was not directly employed by Serco and I always suspected this was done to boost the amounts I claimed to cover some of the additional events and equipment Serco paid for on Ford's behalf that could not be covered legitimately through Ford budgets. I could not prove this but I was asked on several occasions how much I had claimed and it was obvious that my claims were grossly distorted when they reached Ford.

However, in view of the legal threat against me after I left, I could not hope to take on the might of such a major player in the automotive industry, nor could I expect to win against Serco who were heavily involved with government departments at national and local level. So I used the one bit of ammunition I had.

None of the people who were employed by Serco had contracts of employment, even though this was a legal requirement. Repeated requests to rectify this situation were ignored so I contacted the DTI and appraised them of the situation. I also tried to raise several other similar issues but, as with all government departments, they only handled their own affairs. For other matters, even those that were directly related, you had to speak to the "Department of Wealth and Total Obscurity" or whatever.

So, armed with the information I had supplied, the DTI investigator immediately contacted Serco, outlined the complaint she had been given, and asked for an appointment. She was told that the "boss" - Bob Draper - worked mostly in Germany and that no-one else could help. Since the Medway office was managed by a man called Gerry Seaton, a long-time TIA/Serco employee, one wondered exactly what he did do if he couldn't assist on a governmental investigation.

In the event, the department's investigator arranged an appointment for some weeks later when Mr Draper was due back in England by which time Serco's field employees all had contracts of employment!

Naturally, the investigating officer was completely satisfied by what she was shown and the only failure she found was that Serco were not officially registered as an employment business. What!! A company that has for some years been employing staff and contractors doesn't know you have to be registered??? Not a problem. The department's investigator fixed that slight oversight on the spot and gave Serco a clean bill of health.

The more I see of government workings, the more I ask why we have legislation that paid civil servants cannot, or will not, enforce. If the DTI is representative of enforcement agencies, they definitely need a few lessons about investigation techniques.

The way to get to the root of problems is to do spot checks - especially when you have been supplied with evidence of neglect. You don't normally tell the culprits that they have been shopped and by whom. You certainly don't give them several weeks to correct deficiencies before you inspect their records. And you make it clear that further lapses will not be tolerated.

But then if you are dealing with a company that fulfils government contracts, perhaps the same rules aren't applied.

I told the DTI that I thought their investigative techniques were a shambles and a manager replied telling me I could always complain to my MP. Unfortuantely, I'm not one for flogging dead horses!

Editorial comment:

We learned recently that Serco have finally parted company with Mr Draper over some disagreement or other and that Mr Seaton is now retired from Serco and lives happily in his French gite.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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