Thursday, 12 June 2014

Can we trust the Trust?

I found it interesting reading Allan Richards comments on NarrowBoat World (Just OneSingle Complaint) about the apparent disinterest being displayed by CaRT when it comes to the requirements of the Freedom of Information act.

Now, in the past, CaRT was hard pressed on the matter of disclosing evidence of overstaying on visitor moorings. Eventually, somewhat sheepishly CaRT had to admit that it actually had no recorded complaints. Yet, these were the alleged claims that were being used to back up the changes to the use of moorings. The whole fiasco was sold on the basis that there were an undisclosed but substantial number of complaints being made. On that basis alone, we should all ask ourselves, can we trust what the Trust says?

It seems to me that what was happening, is termed these days as an Allan Clark moment. A Clark moment is when someone is "economical with the actualité". Clark was the Trade Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry. His admission finally came during the Matrix Churchill trial. When he admitted that he had been economical with the actualité. He had been economical when giving answers to parliamentary questions. Clark knew that if he did not admit to telling lies and start to tell the truth he was going to be found out anyway. In a loose sort of way, Freedom of Information requests are similar to Parliamentary Questions as both are enshrined in law.

However, in a curious way the issue is now turned completely on its head. You might have thought the trust would have been cock-a-hoop to report that there had only been one complaint made about the activities of hire boaters. The trust should have been pointing out that the number of complaints were almost insignificant. That the lack of complaints could well indicate an overall improvement in the hire sector. This is a positive outcome and one that reflects well upon the trust. However, the barriers went up and Omertà came into play. (Omertà is a Mafia code of honour with a deep-rooted requirement of silence)

This sort of scenario comes about when you have been "economical with the actualité" in the past. Being able to make positive claims about the lack of complaints, would only come back and metaphorically bite CaRT's bottom. Especially if the almost negligible level of complaints were compared to the imaginary complaints in the moorings fiasco. So now CaRT has succeeded in putting itself in a unique position where – its damned if is does and its damned if it doesn't! It needs a special skill - honed over many years to achieve and deserves recognition!

So how can this sort of event happen – I believe its because there is a mind set at work that has no expectation of accountability. A position where you may say what you like and do so, without any expectation of accountability. For me, I have an expectation of how CaRT should conduct itself. I have an expectation of openness, transparency and accountability. After all, it's not so long ago that the chief executive made a statement about openness and transparency. However, I also note that there was no mention of accountability at the time.

Well the clock is ticking and we are approaching the first anniversary of the new chief executive taking over the tiller of the trust. We are coming to the end of the 'honeymoon' period. I am looking forward to the promised 'openness and transparency.' However I also want to see some accountability put in place at the same time. Or will it be more of 'the same old same old?'

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