How did Greening’s “accountant’s eye” miss the WCML screw up while at Transport?

New international development secretary Justine Greening has pledged a "line-by-line" examination of DFID spending - yet she failed to spot the WCML farce.


The Daily Mail recently reported new international development secretary Justine Greening’s targetting of the “fat cats of foreign aid”, with a “line-by-line” examination of DFID spending – the kind of forensic analysis absent during the West Coast Main Line debacle while she was transport secretary.

The Mail revealed:

Miss Greening, who is an accountant by training, has demanded a rapid explanation of apparently extravagant spending and is said to be going through the Department for International Development’s budget ‘line by line’.

Justine will be sure to bring an accountant’s eye to DfID and will be looking extremely closely at every single area of spend to ensure value for money for the British taxpayer,” said one source.

“She has ordered a full report on all the issues that have been raised on her desk by the end of the month.”

As the Telegraph notes, however, Miss Greening’s “accountant’s eye” failed spectacularly to see anything wrong with the WCML bidding process when at the DFT; here are the key dates:

August 23, 2012 – The awarding of the contract should be delayed until the bid has been scrutinised by MPs, said the chairman of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman.

August 25, 2012 – Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir Richard admitted that he was “annoyed by the decision. More than 150,000 people have signed a petition against the government award.

August 28, 2012 – Virgin launches legal action in a final attempt to prevent the Government handing its West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup. Justine Greening pledges to “push on” with handing the West Coast rail franchise to FirstGroup.

September 12, 2012 – The Government admitted that FirstGroup’s contentious £13.3bn bid was riskier than the rival offer from Virgin Rail but insisted it still represented better value for the taxpayer.

September 18, 2012 – The DfT was forced to temporarily nationalise the line because of the Virgin Trains legal challenge, by putting a team of officials in place to run it.

And the result of Greening’s failure? An avoidable £40 million bill to the taxpayer, the re-running of the bid and the temporary nationalisation of the West Coast Main Line – just the kind of ministerial record you’d want of someone in charge of a budget that literally has the power to save lives.

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4 Responses to “How did Greening’s “accountant’s eye” miss the WCML screw up while at Transport?”

  1. LB

    How come you can have a go about accounting when we find the cooked books.

    1. State pension – 2,500 bn missed off the accounts
    2. Civil service pensions – contractual obligation – 1,600 missed off the books

    Repeat ad nauseum with all the big debts that matters.

    If they aren’t on the books, you aren’t going to pay them are you?

    So you would rather argue the toss about a few million. 5 minutes of deficit spending is more important because you think you can score political points in the process.

    That I’m afraid shows how trivial you are.

  2. Newsbot9

    Yes, you’re cooking your books to avoid paying tax, you’ve boasted about it.

    You refuse to look at the pension books because you want to not pay them, and for no other reason. And now apparently you want the UK to default on everything important. Typical anti-British 1% nonsense.

    YOU are refusing to pay them. YOU are refusing to pay tax, You, stop blaming everyone else!

  3. robertcp

    A minister should resign for this. Blaming civil servants is just pathetic!

  4. John Ruddy

    I would be very careful about this. It appears that Justine Greening was the person who ordered the investigation to take place (before she left DfT) which later uncovered the problem.
    The only thing she is guilty of is defending her department in public, while asking questions of it in private – which is surely what any good minister should do?
    Anyway, it was Theresa Villiers who was much more closely involved in the franchise decision…

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