Caldicot and Wentlooge drainage board did not put lives at risk, says its manager
3:48pm Thursday 24th October 2013 in News
THE general manager of a public body that helps ensure the Gwent Levels don’t flood said there is no basis that it ever put the lives and property of thousands at risk.
Richard Penn has hit out at the statement by Assembly Public Accounts Committee chairman, Tory AM Darren Miller, saying it caused unwarranted damage to the board’s public standing and staff morale.
Last week a report by the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) called on the Welsh Government to use what went wrong at the Caldicot and Wentlooge Levels Internal Drainage Board as an example for other public bodies to guard against.
Both that report and one by the Wales Audit Office in 2012 looked at the work of the board when it was run by former chief clerk and engineer Dean Jackson-John.
The Assembly committee had acknowledged the board under Richard Penn had taken action to address issues highlighted by the WAO.
Mr Miller wrote in the committee report that “there were no clear lines of accountability for the board and it was not effectively monitored in developing and implementing a strategic plan for flood-risk management in the Gwent Levels.
“We believe that this potentially put the lives and property of thousands of people at risk.”
But Mr Penn, writing back to the committee, said there was “simply no basis in either report to justify the statement made by the chair of the PAC” and said the claim had “further lowered staff morale”.
He pointed out that a Welsh Government civil servant, Gareth Jones, said the organisation had been “very successful” in dealing with the risk of floodMr Penn asked that the committee thinks about how the statement can be corrected in public.
Mr Penn told the Argus: “What I’m saying is that it’s not true.”
He said that the WAO and PAC reports' criticisms were not made against the work of the organisation but of its 37-member board.
But an Assembly spokesman said: "As with any inquiry by a committee of the National Assembly for Wales, the Public Accounts Committee undertook a wide and comprehensive evidence-based approach.
“The committee reached its conclusion based on that evidence, and that is covered in detail in the report."
The drainage board was subject to a highly critical review in 2012 by the Wales Audit Office which said it occasionally acted unlawfully and overpaid former clerk and chief engineer Dean Jackson-Johns.
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