Cooking the books

Inspection records are being falsified and resources being frittered away as a result of the Agency's decision to treat achievement of the 75% inspection target as the overriding priority of its waste regulators, according to an anonymous letter sent to Environment Minister Michael Meacher in April.

The author claims that "waste regulation staff are driving round the country filling in forms purely to artificially raise figures for site inspection.Staff are often arranging visits to sites outside operating hours and recording an inspection even when they have not entered the site. Sites that have been closed for many years but which still possess a waste management licence are being visited sometimes up to four times a month purely to meet the target.

"Resources are so over-stretched by this policy that some staff are falsifying visit records rather than fail to meet their targets, often with the tacit agreement of line managers whose PRP [performance-related pay] ratings are linked to the numerical targets.The quality of regulation is being severely compromised."

The letter goes on to say that to many staff the inspection policy "strikes at the very heart of their commitment.There are few things more demotivating than being instructed to undertake work which is perceived to be a waste of time, effort and resources.

"The objections to the policy voiced by many colleagues has [sic] been ignored. Devaluing the skills of staff has led to morale being seriously undermined. Levels of staff absence have risen as stress-related illness increases. Many within the Agency perceive the organisation to be more concerned with corporate image than with environmental protection."

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