It would make a very tough but effective crisis scenario. You are fined £8m for misreporting figures on safety maintenance work you are contracted to carry out. How would you respond to the media?
Unfortunately this is no make-believe scenario. It happened to National Grid last week. It is interesting to study the response of the executive director, Mark Fairbairn.
“We are disappointed that a matter such as this should ever have arisen”. Well, yes, obviously, though some might consider “disappointed” a trifle understated.
“National Grid prides itself on the professionalism and integrity of its workforce”. “Professionalism”? This involved reporting the completion of gas pipe safety work which in fact had not been carried out. “Integrity”? It also involved claiming twice for work already completed, which could have prompted Ofgem to set higher prices for the consumer.
“We take very seriously any instances which fall short of our high standards”. How “seriously”? Has any action been taken against those who fiddled the figures?
“We are glad that we have been able to work constructively and professionally with Ofgem in this investigation and in dealing with its outcomes”. In other words, “we are highly relieved we have only been stung for £8m. It could have been far worse. Last year we were fined £15m by Ofgem.”
“Significant enhancements have been made…to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data provided to Ofgem”. So, after fines totalling £23m, National Grid has now decided to provide accurate and complete data to Ofgem.
Mr Fairbairn’s responses are straight out of the “Let’s say anything that avoids saying sorry. Now go away and stop asking awkward questions” textbook.
So what should he have said? The answer is obvious…and it is yours for one per cent of the annual fee National Grid pays to its PR advisers.