BBC: Flagellation

thWJV4BAFAAnother catapult attack on the walls of the BBC has begun. The siege is gathering momentum. For how long can Castle Beeb hold out? The latest salvo is caused by the long running saga of the Digital Media Initiative (DMI) and the huge losses incurred by the BBC as a result of poor management. The most recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) is a serious condemnation of the management at the BBC. Has the tarnished reputation of the BBC been self-inflicted or just the right-wing media venting spleen?

The gross outlay on the DMI project was £126 million, of which £99m was written off. Obviously in any other business, heads would have rolled. As of yet, senior management at the BBC have been spared the axe. Some have moved out but with suspiciously high inducement deals, which I assume, was to make leaving the sanctuary of the Beeb that much more palatable and, with silence guaranteed.

One of the key criticisms was that the project had “no single person in charge”, no line management but a committee of interested departments. Anyone who has served on committees will be aware that it functions on a host of personal interests and cliques, who shirk responsibility. According to the NAO, the executive, “applied insufficient scrutiny”, and did not have a “sufficient grip” on the project overall. Therefore it stands to reason that, “Reporting arrangements were not fit for purpose”. This catalogue of deficiencies clearly points to incompetence!

Who at the BBC decided to bring the project in-house? Was it senior management or a committee and, why was the contract with Siemens ended? The true ineptitude at this juncture was that no cost benefit analysis was carried out. I can’t get my head around the sheer naivety of the decision making at the time. It must have been a committee decision, that way no one person can be held accountable. Was the latter a purposeful rationale?

An earlier report commissioned by the BBC Trust carried out by the respected group PwC, concluded that problems should have been identified two years earlier. It appears that no one has a kind word for the BBC. Sack the bloody committee!

thCLZKC92PFurther assaults by two longbow archers, who reputedly have a very accurate aim, are busy taking pot-shots at Castle Beeb. First in line is, John Linwood, a former manager, sacked in July 2013 without any golden handshake. (not one of the ‘boys’ then?) He may be described as somewhat bitter or as a scapegoat. His evidence will determine which one describes him. He suggests:

  • That the BBC made ‘inaccurate statements’ to the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC). Very Serious!
  • That management via committee changed the ‘vision’ of the project.

The second longbow man is Bill Garrett, former head of technology. He suggests:

  • That four years ago a number of staff falsified estimates of financial benefits of DMI to secure more funding. WOW! And thus:
  • That the investment case for further funds for DMI was ‘fundamentally flawed’.
  • Challenges evidence given by Mark Thomson, (previous Director General, April 2013) to PAC.
  • That NAO was misled during their 2010/2011 investigation.
  • That the PAC was also misled.
  • Told the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten in May 2012 that DMI was doomed.

The project was finally scrapped in May 2013.

If the evidence presented by the two reports and the accusatory pieces by the longbow men prove accurate then the decision is straightforward. The Chairman of the BBC Trust should go immediately without compensation. Several senior managers should likewise be so terminated. I am not au fait with employment law, so my ruthless use of the axe may not prove appropriate. However, people can be identified and told there is no future for them and that there will be no settlement beyond the contractual one. Incompetence should never be rewarded!

One executive, Dominic Coles, Director of Operations, admits that they got DMI wrong (????) but did better with BBC iPlayer. Absolutely, iPlayer is a smash and anybody who is anybody is trying to emulate or improve upon it.  He is quoted in the Guardian newspaper 28/1/2014 as saying that the BBC took swift action to overhaul other big projects. I have several problems with this response:

  • The drawbridge had been left down.
  • The PwC report said they should have been aware 2 years earlier.
  • This is tantamount to admittance that many other projects lacked ‘sufficient grip’!
  • A whole lot of mismanagement!

In the same Guardian article, Mr Coles is quoted as beginning a sentence, “DMI aside,” he continues with how well the BBC is doing in other areas. But let me rephrase Mr Coles words, ‘99 million pounds aside’: as if to imply that a loss of £99m is of little consequence. He should have attended a committee meeting before he spoke.

The BBC is beset with one public relations disaster after another. Bias is another long term one; the more recent Savile debacle, large pay-outs to departing executives and, most recently, workplace bullying. It would appear that the BBC defence strategy is to adopt a siege mentality. I assume that the hope is to be showered by dust which can be brushed off at some later date. Somehow, I don’t think it will be that easy. A siege only occurs when the enemy is determined to expunge the inhabitants. The sanctimonious thBZBVRS53appraisal of their position shows the BBC lack the wit to understand, that their walls of Jericho are more likely to come crumbling down, due to the act of blowing their own trumpets. The siege they endure has been self-inflicted.

Politically, the BBC may consider themselves, alongside the Guardian and Independent newspapers as a bulwark against the dominance of the right wing media. However, whereas the two newspapers have an audience to maintain and their niche market to cultivate; the BBC is duty bound to reach out to the population as a whole.

It would seem that the BBC and its management team have set themselves up as Gods of opinion, no longer reporting the news but directing people’s attention to a specific belief system. The BBC must serve all the people all of the time and, with clarity and with an objective mind.

You cannot fight bias with bias; it leads to a degenerative society. It can only be fought with a strategy the enemy cannot fathom, objectivity.  Millions may read the right wing press but will turn to the objective speaker to learn and to come to a better understanding of events around them. Objectivity is the only defence that will withstand the test of time. Perhaps if the BBC had continued on the road of objectivity they wouldn’t be beating themselves up so regularly.



Europe: The Great Big Money Pit. (2)

Europe 2

I would have thought that, if confident in their appraisal of the EU, then our politicalmap-eu-member-countries-14142535[1] leaders would be falling over each other to demand a ‘cost benefit analysis’ (CBA). But all is quiet on the CBA front. I wonder why? A CBA finds all the positive factors of a situation and then gathers all the negative points. The negative is then deducted from the positive. P-N = CBA. The difference gives a picture of whether the proposal is a good one or not. I can’t hear a Liberal Party voice above the silent mode. I’m pondering!

Our leaders are forever telling us of the economic benefits of being a member and warn of the catastrophic consequences of pulling out. Well, do a CBA! Would industry really shut down? No! It’s a big lie! Norway, Iceland and Croatia all have an agreement with the EU. They are part of the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway has 70% of its trade with the EU and all financial services are covered by the EEA agreement. All EEA countries have “equal access to the internal market”. Also the EEA allows members to live, work and study anywhere in the EU. So what is the entire hullabaloo about?

Once again our leaders feed us the tale of the need for influence. Since we joined in 1973 have we had a great deal of influence? Or are we constantly bemoaning the fact that the EU continuously impose their rules on us? What is really at stake is: jobs for the boys, MEP’s, commissioners, the gravy train, the junkets and the seat at the big table. The latter is the key, ‘the seat at the big table’; they want to sit with the big boys. Just like a kid at school. Most in the UK just want to govern themselves and to maintain our way of life, our culture. Why should we pay vast sums of money just to let our leaders feel important? Powerful without power!

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is another sink hole into which vast sums of our tax revenues are poured without empirical data to support the spend. According to Wikipedia, agriculture and regional spending remain, “materially affected by error”, which is an euphemism for unaccounted for.  A quick reminder of the costs of CAP to the consumer comes from, Delia Grybauskaite, EU Budget Commissioner who says, people pay, “… two or three times more for food than we would pay without the policy”. Telegraph Nov: 2013

Two straightforward quotes that demand some very serious answers and not the usual piffle that characterizes our political leaders. Where has all the money gone? Whose pockets are laden with our tax revenues? Organised crime, local politicians, someone is making a handsome living but it’s not the ordinary consumer. It is essential that the cost of living is cut by a complete overhaul of CAP. Sorry, but I can’t hear Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader. Did he say anything? Raise even an utterance?

Check out my distaste for the imperious Human Rights Act (HR) on this site. HR should be peripheral but it has come to dominate the political landscape as though it was a panacea for all that is unjust in human society. It is certainly not a panacea as it threatens to usurp democracy as the decision maker. In number, the cabal of Judges is less than the Politburo of the old Soviet Union. However, they will wield considerable power if left unchallenged. That is anathema to the democratic principle. Democracy is by no means perfect, but a Politburo is too draconian to contemplate. Such dictatorial power is what the HR was set up to prevent.

An equal bastardization of the original HR is the ‘living instrument’ (LI) which transcends all logic. It permits the Judges to decide the political philosophy that the millions that constitute Europe should follow. The LI must be scrapped. Anyone who actually believes in democracy must view the demise of LI as a prerequisite. What is of real concern is that none of our political leaders have mentioned it. Transparency breeds trust not hidden agendas.

HR has spread through every aspect of our lives. It has left the majority of the populace bemused by the decisions taken. It has also left that majority feeling isolated and powerless. The majority are treated like an ignorant mob; the lumpen-proletariat of society. The only recourse open to them is revolution!

There has been a hue and cry about the cost of the EU with many arguing that it must engage in a severe cost-cutting exercise. Getting rid of one site would be a worthwhile initial step. We don’t need Brussels and Strasbourg. However, Philip Whyte researcher at the Centre for European Reform suggests, “They are right that the structure is crazy. There is a huge appetite for reform of that, but cutting the budget will not help”. (Channel 4 news) He may be right as the EU has a built in financial agreement that its budget increase by inflation year on year. Nonetheless, any Government body must have room for restructuring; it comes with the territory as they over employ in good times.

A huge bureaucracy is a dampening thing; it masks itself behind a mirror of worthwhile work on behalf of the people. It generates its own purpose for survival and becomes an old boy’s network where decisions are shuffled around in a maze, borne of incompetence. Where, lacklustre personalities clamber to the top of the greasy pole by means of sycophantic homage. Where back-covering and back-stabbing is the daily routine. A bureaucracy has a deadening effect on initiative, but mounts a revolutionary barrier to examination or change.

We must stop politicians from treating the people as the lumpen-proletariat. The more power they sequester in their Tower of Babel the greater the danger of despotism for the generations of the future. Make democracy work!


Europe: The Great Big Money Pit! (1)

map-eu-member-countries-14142535[1]The Leaders of the three main political parties in the UK are in favour of remaining in the EU. They have yet to entertain us with credible reasons for doing so. Their play ‘The Benefits of the EU Rock’ is a mishmash of characters spouting dialogue in a meaningless fashion. It involves lots of finger pointing and shouting at each other that has left the audience puzzled as to the plot. Is there a plot?  This little piece of theatre is bound to be a flop. Rating: *

“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his are the same”. Stendhal.

Obviously there are strong biases on either side of the debate and a considerable amount of emotion is exerted. However, it is incumbent on our politicians, who are our leaders, to ensure that we have the arguments presented in a clear and unequivocal manner. Transparency breeds trust: that should be the mantra of our leaders; unless their bias cannot be controlled.

What the electorate must demand is answers to pertinent queries:

•             Why has there been no secure audit?

•             Why has there has not been a ‘cost benefit analysis’?

•             Why has the Common Agriculture Policy not been overhauled?

•             Why is the Human Rights Law allowed to override democracy?

•             Why is there no cost cutting exercise being undertaken?

Given straightforward, honest, credible and verifiable answers the electorate may be willing to give politicians the benefit of leadership.

The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has been scathing in its criticism of the EU budgets. As recently as Nov: 2012 the ECA chairman Victor Calderia wrote, “EU financial management is not yet up to standard”. There has been eighteen (18) years of critical reports on poor spending by the EU and yet it’s allowed to continue. Take my breath away! In the same report it was highlighted that the auditors did not give a clean bill of health to €89bn of spending because it was, “affected by material error”. For ‘material error’ read unaccounted for, lost, fraud or add your own interpretation.  Telegraph Nov: 2012.

Looking back to 1999 and the Jacques Santer Commission set up because a serving official made allegations of fraud. The Commission accepted that there had been ‘irregularities’. In patois, this means we ain’t got a clue mate! A few steps forward to a BBC report of 2006, “auditors have found some EU spending has violated regulation and/or contractual conditions”. Fraud!

Moving forward to June 2013 and the New York Times (NYT) report that a sum of €600m or $800m of direct aid from the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) “could not be properly traced because of the lack of an adequate audit trail, according to the European Court of Auditors”. The report also stated that a budget of €5bn in aid which had been agreed in Nov: 2012 was under scrutiny. That Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Policy Chief and Stefan Fule, Commissioner for the ENP were severely criticised for a failure to keep a grip on the spending even when ‘irregularities’ were known about. No one sacked-surprise, surprise!

In December 2013, quoting from the European Court of Auditors that €1bn had been agreed to support 61,000 civil servants and security personnel in Gaza since Hamas had taken power. The civil servants are kept on ‘gardening leave’ on full pay so that they are not tempted to work for Hamas. The ECA has argued that the payment should cease but Peter Stano of the EU executive wants the payments to continue otherwise those affected may have to go without.

The story is developed further in an article in the   a Lebanon daily newspaper who quote Hans Gustaf Wessburg of the ECA, “The payment of civil servants who do not work does not meet one of [EU’s] main objectives to provide public services to the Palestinian people”. The paper quotes further from Wessburg, “Auditors could not establish what happened to €90m that was meant to pay fuel taxes and keep Gaza’s only power plant running”. In consequence, half the people have no electric power supply.

A further dagger in the torso of the EU is that over the past twenty (20) years the EU has poured nearly €6bn into the Palestinian territories. This is a vast sum of money and, apparently a gross amount of waste. It is not a question of aid per se as I recognise that aid has a powerful political underpinning. It’s the sheer volume of the waste. Who is getting the money? What of the ordinary folk of this desolate landscape? “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”. T.S. Eliot The Waste Land.

It is also recognised that a €1bn package to help Egypt has been mismanaged between 2007/2013. What a sorry mess! If they can so readily and easily screw up aid money, what control do they have over all other spend?