Marking their own homework: Is self-reporting open to abuse?

“The self-reporting system was always suspect,” says Martin Salter, chief policy adviser to the Angling Trust and previously the Labour MP for Reading West. “It’s ridiculous that the water industry is allowed to mark its own homework.”

His comment relates to the recent revelation that Southern Water systematically avoided analysing samples of waste water and sending those results to the Environment Agency over a seven-year period. This deliberate evasion of its responsibility under the EA’s Operator Self Monitoring (OSM) programme resulted in a £3m fine and a requirement to pay back £126m to customers over a five-year period.

This is not the first time Southern Water has been found to have misreported information to a regulator. In 2008, it was fined £20.3m for supplying false data over its customer performance to Ofwat over a period of at least five years. Severn Trent Water was hit with a £35.8m fine the same year for a similar offence.

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