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Ofgem exploited national security law to silence us, whistleblowers claim

September 17, 2018

By Paul Homewood

h/t Green Sand

 

From the Guardian:

 

 

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Britain’s energy regulator has been fighting to keep secret the claims of two whistleblowers who independently raised concerns about potentially serious irregularities in projects worth billions of pounds, the Guardian can reveal.

The two men say Ofgem threatened them with an obscure but sweeping gagging clause that can lead to criminal prosecutions and possible jail terms for those who defy it.

MPs and the whistleblowing charity Protect fear Ofgem is abusing its position and exploiting a law that was intended to protect UK national security – not a regulator from potential embarrassment.

The Labour MP Peter Kyle said: “Whistleblowers save lives and protect our economy from harm; they should be protected by law, not have it used against them.”

One of the whistleblowers told the Guardian he was “continually threatened … for trying to tell the truth. For doing my job and uncovering an issue, Ofgem made my life hell.”

He said the regulator had attempted to “scare me witless with threats of imprisonment” and he felt “utterly ashamed” of Ofgem’s behaviour.

Ofgem said it encouraged staff to report suspected wrongdoing and took their concerns seriously.

Both men worked for Ofgem in entirely different areas of the business and were regarded as qualified experts in their respected fields.

One was Greg Pytel, an economist with oversight of the rollout of the £10.9bn smart meter programme, which is due to be completed in 2020.

Smart meters are electronic devices for homes and businesses that measure the use of electricity and gas. They are designed to make billing easier and to help energy companies manage the supply of electricity more efficiently.

The second whistleblower, who has asked to remain anonymous, worked on the renewable heat incentive (RHI), which offers financial rewards to promote the use of new technologies such as green boilers.

The scheme, which started in 2011, has been controversial – and could eventually cost taxpayers £23bn. Both projects are key to the government’s stated aim of making the UK a low-carbon economy.

The two whistleblowers do not know each other and have not been involved in each other’s cases. They say they are only linked by the reaction of Ofgem to their claims.

They found themselves in similar positions after being tasked with scrutinising elements of the two major projects they were working on between 2014 and 2017. Both raised concerns with their managers.

Instead of welcoming their input and investigating their concerns, the men allege they were bullied, treated unfairly and sidelined to such an extent they felt compelled to bring their grievances to an employment tribunal.

The RHI whistleblower claimed he was “continually ignored or threatened.” In both instances, the men say they were told they would not be allowed to reveal to the tribunal, or anyone else, the concerns they had. They say Ofgem warned them that the details were protected by Section 105 of the Utilities Act 2000.

This prohibits the disclosure of certain types of evidence relevant to the energy sector – and it is so restrictive that those who ignore it can be fined or jailed for up to two years.

At an early hearing of Pytel’s case, the tribunal ruled Ofgem was required to disclose his documents about public procurement arrangements for the smart meter programme, citing the Human Rights Act. It said he had the right to freedom of expression without interference from a public authority. But Ofgem has against appealed the decision.

Peter Daly at Bindmans, the legal firm that is acting for Pytel, said: “Ofgem’s position appears to be that anyone who disclosed or reported the content of his whistleblowing would be themselves committing a criminal offence.

“They [Ofgem] are appealing an employment tribunal order to provide disclosure in the proceedings because they say to do so would be a criminal offence. Ofgem’s appeal therefore indicates that in Ofgem’s view this prohibition extends to Ofgem themselves.”

Daly says if Ofgem wins this legal battle, it would “have a corrosive and asphyxiating effect on the rights of whistleblowers in the energy sector and would create a binding precedent.”

A second hearing of the case will take place in October.

The second whistleblower has described the alleged reaction of his managers when faced with the concerns he raised. “Specifically I was told that if I told the truth, my career with Ofgem would be finished.”

Despite the threats, he said, he briefed the National Audit Office – a move that infuriated Ofgem, he claimed.

He said a senior manager “screamed and shouted” at him, and he was then warned his disclosures were a breach of section 105 of the Utilities Act 2000.

The whistleblower says he left Ofgem last year after being “threatened with imprisonment if I shared information about the wrongdoings that I had witnessed”. He has described Ofgem as being “dishonestly secretive”.

Kyle, a member of the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee, said: “Ofgem do have many commercial secrets that are vital to the wellbeing of our nations’ infrastructure, but the power they have to gag whistleblowers is an extreme one and should be used in only extreme circumstances.

“I’m now extremely concerned about the potential abuse of these powers. Parliament might need to look at who has oversight and scrutiny of them and see if the law needs updating.”

Protect, formerly Public Concern at Work, has been helping both of the Ofgem whistleblowers, and has intervened in one of the ongoing legal cases.

The body’s chief executive, Francesca West, said: “The whole of the UK energy market – that’s more than 600,000 workers – are currently being held to ransom over Section 105 of the Utilities Act, and threatened with a prison sentence if they speak up over wrongdoing. It is utterly shameful.

“Our society needs whistleblowers to speak up, to stop harm. But we also need organisations to be honest, open and operate legally.”

Ofgem said it had only had to consider the use of section 105 once in the last five years.

“In carrying out our duties as the energy regulator, Ofgem handles large amount of information from consumers and businesses which is often both personal in nature and commercially sensitive.

“With the exception of a few prescribed circumstances, section 105 of the Utilities Act 2000 prohibits the disclosure of the information we receive. Section 105 is intended to ensure that consumers and businesses can share their information without fear that it may be subsequently disclosed. Ofgem takes our obligations under law very seriously, including the restrictions in section 105.

“Ofgem adheres to its whistleblowing policy which encourages staff to report suspected wrongdoing as soon as possible, in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated.”

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2018/sep/17/ofgem-made-my-life-hell-whistleblowers-say-they-were-threatened-by-regulator

 

Curiously the Guardian gives no hint of what the two whistleblowers wanted to tell us.

It does not take a genius to work out the whole smart meter programme has been highly flawed from the outset, and an obscene waste of billions of pounds.

As for the RHI, many more billions are being wasted, often on environmentally damaging projects, and again for the same reasons of reducing CO2 emissions.

The fact that the Guardian has been wholeheartedly behind both schemes might give a clue as to why they are reluctant to tell the whole story.

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39 Comments
  1. September 17, 2018 9:59 pm

    From the opposite side of the planet, it would appear that the Green evil has accomplished in the UK what the Axis powers 80 years ago attempted and failed.

  2. MALCOLM BELL permalink
    September 17, 2018 10:21 pm

    No, it is because a TV presenter Christian Fraser id from there (and Leeds Met) and is interviewing the people. They are keen Brexiteers and there are a lot of firms moving there.

    In Friendship

    Malcolm (Mike) Bell

    >

    • September 17, 2018 10:49 pm

      Comment in wrong place ?
      It appears to be about this : “Just watched Christian Fraser in Burnley. Horribly biased towards brexit because only brexiteers were interviewed.”

  3. seeker permalink
    September 17, 2018 10:32 pm

    I am shocked.
    Not at the antics of an offwhatever, but that the Guardian should do some actual reporting of facts!

  4. September 17, 2018 10:39 pm

    Curiously the Guardian gives no hint of what the two whistleblowers wanted to tell us.

    Possibly sub judice?
    A second hearing of the case will take place in October.

  5. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 17, 2018 10:57 pm

    Well, we know that OFGEM takes very seriously its obligation under Ed Miliband’s 2010 Energy Act to put green interests first above those of consumers. Isn’t this just more of the same?

  6. Bitter@twisted permalink
    September 17, 2018 11:00 pm

    Why does this story not surprise me?
    As always “follow the money”
    I believe these two individuals are guilty of nothing more than attempting to bring a scam to public notice.
    Powerful people/organisations don’t want the gravy train to stop.

  7. September 18, 2018 3:52 am

    The matter of cash for ash in Northern Ireland hasn’t garnered much attention as to the shutting down of the pisstaking going on over there has it?

  8. September 18, 2018 6:30 am

    Together with the civil service, all government regulators and NGOs seem to have been totally taken over by the greenblob/EU place-men. With a parliament made up of people of limited commonsense (or just plain stupid), I cannot see any way out of the fact that “we are all doomed”.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 18, 2018 9:58 am

      “With a parliament made up of people of limited commonsense (or just plain stupid)”

      Ah, that’ll be our lovely Claire Perry, to name but one.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        September 18, 2018 10:11 am

        Talking of Claire Perry, her Wiki entry includes this gem from Monbiot:

        “One of her contemporaries at Brasenose was George Monbiot, who described her in his column for The Guardian as, at the time, “a firebrand who wanted to nationalise the banks and overthrow capitalism””

        I wrote to her a year ago(!) and challenged her on this (among other things) and she scribbled a note back to me that I should not believe everything I read. OK, I thought, in that case, having given her the reference, she’ll be keen to correct her entry (it must be easy to delegate that task to one of her spads, I’d have thought). Well, the quote above was taken from Wiki today.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 18, 2018 1:36 pm

        And people wonder why we don’t have a conservative government despite the party name.

  9. September 18, 2018 8:58 am

    Ofgem should only have one purpose, taking care of consumers, but as a non-ministerial govt department, with interference from various arms of the Green Blob, that purpose has been sidelined.

    “Ofgem’s failure to actively handle complaints should not be seen as the sum total of their activities. On the contrary Ofgem are:

    *Leading government efforts to mitigate climate change, both through international action and cutting UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050;
    *Leading efforts to ensure as a nation that we are sourcing at least 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020;
    *Committed to delivering secure, low-carbon energy at the least cost to consumers, taxpayers and the economy;
    *Committed to policies protecting the most vulnerable and fuel poor households and addressing the competitiveness problems faced by energy intensive industries;
    *Delivering policies in a way that maximises the benefits to the economy in terms of jobs, growth and investment;
    *Making the most of the UK’s existing oil and gas reserves and seizing the opportunities presented by the rise of the global green economy;”

    https://www.businessjuice.co.uk/energy-guides/ofgem/

    • John Palmer permalink
      September 18, 2018 9:18 am

      Remind me, how all that is spelt- I think that it’s with with two ‘L’s and one ‘X’!

    • Derek Buxton permalink
      September 18, 2018 10:01 am

      All these NGOs abuse their power, simply because that is what they do and can do, thanks to our rather poor government. Give little people power and you have the likes of Hitler getting the jobs.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        September 18, 2018 10:48 am

        Once more, we see the corrupting influence of “Common Purpose” Their motto – “Leading Beyond Authority”…

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 18, 2018 10:03 am

      The Global green economy is not a true economy as we, in a capitalist society would understand it. It exists because of diktat and subsidy while producing nothing of worth that could not be delivered at a cheaper, non-subsidised price.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 18, 2018 1:38 pm

        And every green job causes over 3 real ones to disappear or relocate to China.

    • Robert Jones permalink
      September 18, 2018 8:35 pm

      Exactly what are the opportunities ‘.. presented by the rise of the global green economy’ apart (of course) from those where a very small number of people appear to be making a great deal of money out of a very much larger number of people by inflating their energy bills? Some examples; useless wind turbines, smart meters, the Renewable Heat Incentive, the standby generators, the wood pellet scam at Drax, biogas (coming to pollute a river near you!), the Swansea Lagoon, the big battery pack, electric vehicles…..

      The first world is presently at the mercy of hucksters and confidence tricksters and the gullible consumers pay for it all, while in the third world people are dying because they are cooking on twigs and animal dung in huts with no electricity and no way out.

      Why are our British politicians and civil servants subscribing to this nonsense? Trump has seen through it, why can’t our Prime Minister?

      • dave permalink
        September 20, 2018 5:08 pm

        “…why can`t our our Prime Minister?”

        That would need on her part (a) brains, (b) truthfulness, (c) humility, (d) courage.

        In the absence of all these requirements…

  10. September 18, 2018 9:41 am

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    I am encouraged that the Guardian is reporting this at all. When the case resumes in October let’s hope that the result is in favour of these whistle blowers and that OFGEM are judged to have acted illegally. Taking a principled stand against a public body with seemingly limitless financial resources to throw at their case is a brave act – all power to them.

  11. Simon from Ashby permalink
    September 18, 2018 9:45 am

    Smart meters “are designed to make billing easier and to help energy companies manage the supply of electricity more efficiently”.

    Smart meters have always, and continue to be, sold to the consumer as a means of reducing bills, which was always nonsense of course. A measuring device tells what you’ve used it determine what that usage is. It’s a bit like saying the speedo on your car saves petrol.

    The above quote proves that smart meters were always there for the benefit if the suppliers to monitor and “manage” usage to fit government policy.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 18, 2018 10:05 am

      I’m willing to bet that many round here are as sick and tired of Maxine Peake’s voice as I am. She’s ruined whatever joy I used to get from her acting abilities.

      • September 18, 2018 11:07 am

        You’ll have reached “peak Maxine” then, Harry.

        Sorry.

        Fortunately I don’t know the woman. What is she for?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        September 18, 2018 11:41 am

        Mike: She is the actress who started life in things like Dinner Ladies and went on to play a QC in Silk and is now the voice-over for all those annoying smart-meter ads. She is a strident lefty and green to boot.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        September 18, 2018 1:39 pm

        Hmm, something else not missing from my life then.

  12. September 18, 2018 12:40 pm

    The Green Blob not only interferes, it also infiltrates, look who helps Ofgem with their recruiting:

    https://www.greenjobs.co.uk/companies/ofgem

    • September 18, 2018 10:12 pm

      yup….. and look at what DECC did with FoIs about actual FoE / WWF / Greenpeace etc folk on secondment / employed by them … Do The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy still have these people on the payroll?

  13. Athelstan permalink
    September 18, 2018 2:02 pm

    It rather strikes me as a bit rum, nay bleakly ironic that, one of the original, one of THE organs cheerleading, clamouring madlly shouting “rip those hearts out – tovarich!”
    A greenwash rag, given to slaying, the mass sacrifice of the domestic consumer on the steps of the great green temple dedicated to Gaia and the corporate blob.

    An organ – the graun’ which still does and loudly belching, promoting the green agenda and all that financial calamity, its insanity entailed should be screaming outrage over a charidee ( a bunch of lefties) and ooh – crying foul about another bunch of lefties (ofgem) doing what is expected of them – trying to shut down the truth by all means neccesary and defend the honour and with their knickers on display; of the polar bears no attenborough et al-bbc and their mates in the Energy firms- BEIS-HMG the EU, NYC the City and Frankfurt, namely the investments bankers – careful with that word – bankers.

    Does this mean a Damascene blinding light, a volte face, a rest on long march, on behalf of the wingnuts running the graun?

    NO?

    paint me red, with rainbow spectacles.

  14. dennisambler permalink
    September 18, 2018 2:53 pm

    Latest from Claire Perry:

    https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-08-01.169457.h&s=climate+change#g169457.r0

    “The Government is committed to tackling climate change. We are focused on galvanising international action to cut emissions, including by helping to secure the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, and have been developing our approach on assessing emissions associated with international trade and imports alongside domestic emissions.”

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 19, 2018 1:48 pm

      This suggests they are thinking about the outcome of their dumb policies which sees manufacturing move to where the energy is cheaper and export to us. Voila! Less jobs, less tax income but the same – or worse – CO2 emissions. Even in a department as stupid as BEIS they acknowledge off-shoring.

  15. JimW permalink
    September 18, 2018 4:41 pm

    25 years ago I enjoyed jousting with Stephen Littlechild and his merry men ( and woman). Intellect was usually the order of the day , of course with a fair sprinkling of politics, but I got that at the Dept of Energy. Now it seems that everything is ‘green’ at OfGEM including the guy running it.
    If someone waved this sort of document at the guys working there then there would have been major problems. The world has changed a lot and not a lot for the better.

  16. John permalink
    September 18, 2018 9:45 pm

    Like the supra national EU, our civil servants & regulators do not work in the ordinary persons interests.

  17. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    September 19, 2018 1:57 pm

    “Both men worked for Ofgem in entirely different areas of the business…”

    Ofgem is now a business?

    Somehow I feel this too tells us quite a lot about what is wrong in the modern world.

    • bitchilly permalink
      September 21, 2018 11:59 pm

      indeed gerry.the country and to a greater extent the western world is now run by virtue signalling silver spoon rent seeking scum. on other blogs i continually see reference to the “left redistributing wealth to poorer countries”. it is an ill informed comment made by people not paying attention to where the money is going.

      the money is going to the same people it always did, just in ever increasing amounts.the sooner someone forces these clowns in public bodies to understand the “servant” part of their public servant job titles the better. it does not mean self aggrandising virtue signalling hypocritical lying bastards.

  18. CheshireRed permalink
    September 20, 2018 1:45 pm

    Speaking of the Guardian…..here’s the latest beyond-crackpot climate wheeze.
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/20/build-walls-on-seafloor-to-stop-glaciers-melting-scientists-say

    • dave permalink
      September 20, 2018 5:37 pm

      “…beyond crackpot…”

      A Master of Aikido was asked the difference between his martial art and Karate. He replied that if he were on a railroad track and saw a train coming, he would step out of its way. A Karate man would stay on the line, adopt a power-pose, and punch the train.

  19. Bugsley permalink
    September 21, 2018 11:28 am

    What puts me off from the smart meter perspective is that installing one means I am putting a piece if equipment with wireless capability in the house with software written by GCHQ. Call me paranoid, but it’s the start of big brother monitoring everything that I do. I will fight to the end to never have one fitted on principle.

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