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Civil servant feels ‘scapegoated’ over West Coast suspension

One of the senior civil servants suspended over the West Coast contract fiasco has appealed to the High Court to overturn that decision.

Kate Mingay is the director of commercial and technical services at the DfT and chaired a committee that played a key role in choosing the FirstGroup bid for the West Coast franchise.

Virgin Rail challenged that decision and an internal review found serious flaws in the decision-making process, which led to the cancellation of the contract. Three civil servants were suspended one day later.

Mingay asked the High Court to lift her suspension, arguing that the Government’s grounds were flawed and inconsistent. She said she played only a small role compared to more senior colleagues in the process.

Justice Kenneth Parker has adjourned the case until a human resources review at the DfT is completed. The review is due to report on Monday and the case will resume next Friday.

Mingay told the Financial Times: “I feel that I have been unfairly singled out. The DfT’s actions and failures to act since my suspension have only served to reinforce my fears that I am being unfairly scapegoated for political reasons.”

Sam Laidlaw’s report into what went wrong during the West Coast franchising process has been delayed. He handed in his report on Wednesday, but transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has decided not to publish his findings immediately. He had previously indicated he would make the report public shortly after its submission.

The Commons Transport Select Committee had planned to question Laidlaw on the report at a hearing next Tuesday.

A DfT spokesman said: “Given the level of detail in the report and the complex legal and commercial issues it covers, it is right that ministers and the department have an opportunity to consider fully its findings before formal publication. However, we fully intend to publish the report and will do so as soon as possible.”

Louise Ellman MP, who chairs the transport committee, said: “I am concerned about the failure of the Government to produce the report as promised without any notification. Major errors at the department have already been exposed and actions like this will only increase concerns. This is not the way to handle the crisis.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


Paul   30/11/2012 at 12:31

Her job title is Commercial and Technical director, and I am sure she is being paid for that. As a director you are responsible and it is your job to be aware of what is happening around you in your department. She has not got a leg to stand on and this sums up the problem of accountability is this country.

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