A former Goldman Sachs banker in charge of private contracts for the Department for Transport was named yesterday as one of the officials suspended for their alleged role in the West Coast rail franchise fiasco. Kate Mingay, head of commercial at the DfT, is believed to be the most senior of three staff suspended on Wednesday.
She ran a team responsible for the finance model in the bidding for the West Coast Main Line franchise. The decision to strip Sir Richard Branson's company, Virgin Trains, of the multibillion-pound contract and award it to FirstGroup instead was scrapped after the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said there were "significant technical flaws" in the bidding process because of the DfT's mistakes.
It is easy to label civil servants as obstructive incompetent bureaucrats and this has resulted in the increasing appointment of outsiders to senior posts in various departments. Unfortunately, these thrusting, decisive individuals have not been brought up in the cautious ethos of the service where it is important to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed, with decisions and recommendations to Ministers subject to proper investigation and consultation. Instead, it is in the nature of these privateers to cut corners and disregard the fuddie-duddies insisting on due process. And, indeed, that is why Ministers have encouraged their recruitment.
The results are now becoming apparent.
Oh and yes, I may be biased as, some years ago now, I was one of the fuddy-duddies ...