Area 7 Cost Allocation and Overpayment Recoveries

Mr P Swift made this Freedom of Information request to National Highways Limited

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The request was refused by National Highways Limited.

Dear Highways England Company Limited,

Contradicting a previous statement, Highways England apparently have the ability to recover overpayments in contracts where they have been identified as being paid in error.

With regard to Area 7, please provide:

1. in excel format from the date of contract commencement, the claims presented by Amey; date of incident or payment (as held), their reference, your reference, the sum claimed, the sum paid and any recoveries form Amey for overpayment

2. the section(s) of the contract that set our the ability to recover for overpayment

3. the 'check & challenge' process

4. how the managerial costs are calculated and a portioned i.e. who is involved (staff levels/numbers), their roles, the costs calculated and the allocation methodology.

It may assist to read this request in conjunction with:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Mr P Swift

22 Mar 2016 — Highways England has awarded Amey a £300M maintenance and response contract for Area 7 as part of its new 'asset led' delivery

Highways England, National Highways Limited

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FOI Advice, National Highways Limited

Dear Mr Swift

 

I am writing regarding your request for information received on 28 May. 
In that request, you asked us for –

 

With regard to Area 7, please provide:

1. in excel format from the date of contract commencement, the claims
presented by Amey; date of incident or payment (as held), their reference,
your reference, the sum claimed, the sum paid and any recoveries form Amey
for overpayment

2. the section(s) of the contract that set our the ability to recover for
overpayment

3. the 'check & challenge' process

4. how the managerial costs are calculated and a portioned i.e. who is
involved (staff levels/numbers), their roles, the costs calculated and the
allocation methodology.

 

I will be unable to proceed with your request without clarification of the
information you wish to receive.

 

With regard to Question 1 in order to respond with the relevant
information and to avoid confusion, can you please be more specific and
explain what you mean by ‘claims’? Is this specifically with reference to
applications for payment from Amey, for works to rectify damage to network
property? As I’m sure you can appreciate, the contract commenced in 2016
and to date, in excess of 55,000 cost reimbursable jobs have been raised
and issued, of which, rectification/repair work for damage to network
property caused by third parties is a lesser proportion.

 

With regard to Question 4, can you please advise if this is in relation to
a specific claim and if so, which particular one?

 

Please note that if I do not receive appropriate clarification of your
information requirements within three months from the date of this letter,
then I will consider your request closed.

 

If you wish to discuss any of the above, please contact me. Please
remember to quote reference number FOI 102163 in any future
communications.

 

Kind Regards

 
Highways England FOI Team 
Web: [1]http://highwaysengland.co.uk

 

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Highways England Company Limited | General enquiries: 0300 123 5000
|National Traffic Operations Centre, 3 Ridgeway, Quinton Business Park,
Birmingham B32 1AF |
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati... |
[3][Highways England request email]

Registered in England and Wales no 9346363 | Registered Office: Bridge
House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LZ

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Dear FOI Advice,

With regard to Question 1, my request relates to Green claims, those incidents where you pursue Third Parties for damage caused to the SRN; this is with reference to applications for payment from Amey, for works to rectify damage to network property?

I am pleased to note rectification/repair work for damage to network property caused by third parties is a lesser proportion.

With regard to Question 4, I am seeking a methodology, not information pertinent to a specific claim.

Highways England have written on a matter about a traffic management charge that ‘’never should have been pai’:

‘Due to agreements we’re unable to get that credited or adjusted’

As for anther aspect of the charges the response was:

‘In all honesty, not a clue, whatever it is very likely has nothing to do with the repair, as white collar staff AMEY are contractually allowed to ‘spread book’ and we can’t question it (I have made the same point about us not being a MAC myself and it’s just a case of “it’s white collar”). It’s an ongoing issue & another case of having to make adjustments’

Yours sincerely,

Mr P Swift

FOI Advice, National Highways Limited

Dear Mr Swift

We are writing to advise you that the time-limit for responding to your request for information which we received on 28 May and clarified on 18 June 2021 needs to be extended.

In the case of your request, we must extend the time limit by approximately 20 working days because some of the information requested must be considered under one of the exemptions to which the public interest test applies. This extra time is needed in order to make a determination as to the public interest.

The specific exemption which applies in relation to your request is Section 43: commercial interest.

We hope to let you have a response by 16 August 2021.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact our team. Please remember to quote reference number FOI 102163 in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request you may ask for an internal review. Our internal review process is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

If you require a print copy, please phone the Information Line on 0300 123 5000; or e-mail [Highways England request email]. You should contact our team if you wish to complain.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Kind Regards

Highways England FOI Team
Web: http://highwaysengland.co.uk

show quoted sections

Dear FOI Advice,

Thank you for the update

Yours sincerely,

Mr P Swift

Green Claims Central, National Highways Limited

3 Attachments

 

 

Highways England | Floor 5 | 2 Colmore Square | Birmingham | B4 6BN

[mobile number]
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strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please
notify the sender and destroy it.

Highways England Company Limited | General enquiries: 0300 123 5000
|National Traffic Operations Centre, 3 Ridgeway, Quinton Business Park,
Birmingham B32 1AF |
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati... |
[3][email address]

Registered in England and Wales no 9346363 | Registered Office: Bridge
House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LZ

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References

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Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

Highways England responded with regard to their PIT:
Providing information about sums
claimed compared with sums
recovered would reveal Highways
England’s Green Claims negotiation
strategy.
• This would undermine our ability to
negotiate the best possible settlement
of future Green Claims and hence
fully recover costs as it would reveal
the amounts which may not be
recovered from time to time in order to
reach a settlement.
• This would give some parties who
have negligently damaged the
strategy road network a benchmark as
to where settlement offers should be
pitched, on a percentage basis, rather
than on the merits of individual claims.
• This could increase the prospects of
litigation, if unrealistic offers were
received, which would then lead to
increased costs for all parties
involved.
• This has the potential to reduce costs
recovered from negligent parties
increasing the cost to tax payers to
put right damage or reducing funds
available for undertaking maintenance
and repairs on the strategic road
network

Dear Highways England Company Limited,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Highways England Company Limited's handling of my FOI request 'Area 7 Cost Allocation and Overpayment Recoveries'.

Why you needed to extend the period is not explained sufficiently.

With regard to your recoveries, your explanation contradicts your conduct. For example:

You openly reported that you were recovering £1 in every £5 (06/2019 - the NSoRC) i.e. 20%

You sought to engage solicitors, tendered for them, expecting that this would result in a £4.50 in every £5 recovery i.e. 90%

However, when I seek the current recovery rate, this is withheld. Previously, the information was voluntarily revealed, now it is hidden.

I beleive the lawyers are under-recovering. I suspect this results from:

a. under £10k, over charging using inflated rates
b. over £10k, your failure to reconcile costs pre-payment i.e. your failure to protect the public purse.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a...

Yours faithfully,

Mr P Swift

foi@highwaysengland.co.uk, National Highways Limited

Highways England
National Traffic Operations Centre
3 Ridgeway
Quinton Business Park
Birmingham B32 1AF

 

Dear Mr P Swift

We acknowledge receipt of your email to Highways England:

Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Area 7 Cost Allocation
and Overpayment Recoveries

If you have submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) or the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), your request
will be considered and you will receive our response within the statutory
timescale of 20 working days.

The reference number for your email is FOI/2258.

Should you have any further inquiries concerning this matter, please reply
to this email leaving the subject line unchanged.

Yours sincerely,
Highways England

noreply@infreemation.co.uk,

Dear Mr P Swift,

Your request for information ref FOI/2258

I am writing to apologise for the delay in responding to your request for
information.

Unfortunately, due to operational pressures caused by the Covid-19
pandemic, we are finding that responses are being delayed beyond the 20
working day timescale. The Information Commissioner has recently published
guidance accepting that local authorities will have to prioritise other
matters during this period. We will of course continue to do what we can
to respond to your request as quickly as we can.

Yours sincerely,

Customer Relations Manager

Dear Highways England Company Limited,

Please advise:

by when i can expect the response
how Covid has affected your FoIA handling

Yours faithfully,

Mr P Swift

Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

to ICO 14/09/2021

FOI Advice, National Highways Limited

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Swift,

 

Please see attached for the internal review ref. IR 102163 of your freedom
of information request ref. FOI 102163.

 

Kind Regards

 

Jonathan Drysdale

Freedom of Information Officer (HE)

Digital Services

National Highways | Piccadilly Gate | Store Street | Manchester | M1 2WD

Web: [1]http://highwaysengland.co.uk

 

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notify the sender and destroy it.

Highways England Company Limited | General enquiries: 0300 123 5000
|National Traffic Operations Centre, 3 Ridgeway, Quinton Business Park,
Birmingham B32 1AF |
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati... |
[3][email address]

Registered in England and Wales no 9346363 | Registered Office: Bridge
House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LZ

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Mr P Swift left an annotation ()

IR Response:
Internal Review

Further to your email dated 15 August 2021 regarding an internal review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, it has been passed to me to conduct an internal review of the way in which your request (FOI 102163) has been handled.

In your e-mail on the 28 May 2021 you made the following request –

With regard to Area 7, please provide:

1. in excel format from the date of contract commencement, the claims presented by Amey; date of incident or payment (as held), their reference, your reference, the sum claimed, the sum paid and any recoveries form Amey for overpayment

2. the section(s) of the contract that set our the ability to recover for overpayment

3. the 'check & challenge' process

4. how the managerial costs are calculated and a portioned i.e. who is involved (staff levels/numbers), their roles, the costs calculated and the allocation methodology.

On the 18 June 2021 National Highways (formerly Highways England) contacted you seeking clarification of questions 1 and 4. You responded the same day with the following clarification –

With regard to Question 1, my request relates to Green claims, those incidents where you pursue Third Parties for damage caused to the SRN; this is with reference to applications for payment from Amey, for works to rectify damage to network property?

I am pleased to note rectification/repair work for damage to network property caused by third parties is a lesser proportion.

With regard to Question 4, I am seeking a methodology, not information pertinent to a specific claim.

On the 13 July 2021 National Highways contacted you informing you that the deadline for responding needed to be extended by 20 working days in order to undertake a Public Interest Test (PIT) to determine whether Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 applied to some of the requested information.

On the 13 August 2021 National Highways issued a response under FOI 102163 providing information for all 4 questions raised but withholding information on sum claimed compared to sums recovered at question 1 under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and provided the PIT document that showed the factors considered when applying the exemption.

On the 15 August 2021 you asked for an internal review of the response provided.

Looking at your request for an internal review your dissatisfaction appears to be both around our extension of the deadline to undertake a PIT and the application of the exemption, so I will address both in this review.

Firstly, on the point of the extension the legislation states at Section 10(3) that an extension can be applied if required in order for National Highways to determine whether or not the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining an exemption. Section 43 is a qualified exemption and therefore a PIT is required to engage this and one was undertaken as it you were provided with a copy in the response. Therefore, as a PIT determines whether or not the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining an exemption, I’m satisfied that there has been no breach of the legislation by National Highways when extending the deadline for this request.

With regards to the application of the exemption I have now had the opportunity to review the request and the response, and discuss this with the relevant parties and I have found that the response provided on the 13 August 2021 was correct and that Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 has been correctly engaged to the withheld information, where the reasons for applying the exemption are provided within the PIT that was attached alongside the response.

In conclusion, I am satisfied that the information provided in response to your request has been done so in the correct manner and the exemption to withhold information has been appropriately engaged. Therefore, no further action is required by National Highways regarding this case.

I do note that on 14 September 2021 you were contacted by our FOI case management system apologising for the delay in responding to you, stating Covid-19 pressures as the reasoning behind this. You subsequently responded asking for an update on this and asking how Covid has affected our FOI handling. The message you received on the 14 September was an automatic message generated by the system and should not have been issued or stated that Covid was causing delays, so please accept my apologies for this. This automated message has now been disabled.

However, I can confirm that beyond the first 8 -12 months of the pandemic, where all parties were getting used to remote working and the pressures on parents to home school which caused, I’m sure you will agree, understandable delays in staff picking up requests as quickly as they would usually, that Covid has not had any measurable effect on our FOI handling. Again, please accept my apologies for any confusion this message may have caused.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of this review you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

Jonathan Drysdale
Freedom of Information Officer