Our reporter on the trail... before he contracted foot and mouth
According to the "usual sources" (ie shameless leaks), the report on the Pirbright foot and mouth outbreak will finger the government's own virus lab, and not their nextdoor neighbour Merial.
Investigators have apparently identified five separate breaches of bio-security, including a broken waste pipe which seems the most likely culprit:
"The investigators reportedly found records indicating that for several years there had been concerns about the state of the pipe, but that no repairs were carried out, possibly because funds were not made available."
How outrageously public sector is that? Uninspected rail line? Ah well, doesn't matter- we'll fudge the records. Broken virus waste pipe? Ah well, doesn't matter- it's underground so nobody can see it anyway.
We recently visited a huge and very well known NHS hospital. It's undergoing a massive PFI expansion programme, yet its existing facilities are abysmally maintained. For example, there are expanses of flat roof which can be clearly seen from the wards and which are strewn with rubbish: not just old drinks bottles etc but also abandoned bits of unidentified hospital kit.
It's horribly depressing and screams "abandon hope". Yet it would only take two or three hours to tidy up. Predictably, none of it has been touched since we last visited a couple of years back- everything seems to be in exactly the same place.
Clearly roof cleaning has fallen down the gap between the box-ticking managers, the clinicians, and the outsourced cleaning company. In a top-down Stalinist world of Whitehall planning, performance targets, and contractural direction, it's nobody's actual job-decription job to keep the roof tidy. It's never been speced, approved, and documented, so it never gets done.
All shocking enough. Yet Pirbright also highlights another of the public sector's worst vices- not me guv management.
As you may recall, when government ministers rushed back from their hols to pose at the helm for the cameras, Defra span like crazy that it was all the fault of those damned yanks nextdoor (see previous blogs eg here and here). Well before any proper investigation, they passed the buck (and that included the supposedly lily-white Hillary Benn).
Well now the buck has bounced right back into their laps.
Will there be resignations?
Apologies? To Merial, the farmers, and the public?
Infected pigs might fly.
Financial compensation to Merial for gross reputational damage?
I'm sure their lawyers are even now on the case.
And you know who'll have to pay.