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Independent Inquiry agreed into alleged misuse of public funds at Network Rail

22 December 2010

Following a series of talks between the Chairman of Network Rail, Rick Haythornthwaite, and the General Secretary of the TSSA, Gerry Doherty which represents senior staff in the company, facilitated by the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, agreement has been reached on the terms of reference for an inquiry into allegations of misuse of public funds and serious financial impropriety within Network Rail. It has also been agreed that the Inquiry is to be conducted by Antony White QC.

The Inquiry will begin its work in January.

Brendan Barber said "I am pleased to say that we have now reached agreement on an inquiry which will be headed by a QC with Mr White’s standing and reputation. All witnesses can know they can speak freely and openly to him."

Rick Haythornthwaite said “We have already carried out extensive investigations into the allegations and have found no evidence of wrong-doing. This further inquiry must first flush out all allegations and evidence if we are to determine whether there is a case to be answered. This is a serious matter that needs to be closed for the sake of the company and the people concerned. I believe that we are taking sensible and effective steps using by using an independent QC to bring this matter to an ultimate conclusion.”

Gerry Doherty said: "These allegations of impropriety have been a black cloud hanging over NR for the past two years. Now at last they can be examined independently and dealt with accordingly."

Terms of Reference

Network Rail and the TSSA have agreed that an Inquiry should be conducted to investigate any allegations of misuse of public funds and serious financial impropriety, potentially including fraud, presented to the Inquiry by the TSSA or present or former employees of Network Rail, including allegations that Ian Coucher received illicit payments from Network Rail (either directly or through Coucher Pender Ltd) and defrauded the company during the period 2002-2009. The investigation should examine any off-shore bank accounts and significant cash transactions that may be relevant to the Inquiry, including examining the adequacy of the company’s control procedures in respect of any of those alleged accounts and transactions found to have existed or taken place.

Network Rail will make available to the Inquiry all the information and data examined in previous internal inquiries, and will disclose any other documents and records sought by the Inquiry. Anyone giving evidence will suffer no negative consequences as a result of taking such action. To enable any present or former employees who may have relevant information to provide this to the Inquiry with confidence the Chairman of Network Rail has given an absolute commitment that the company will willingly concede to any measures that the person conducting the Inquiry deems necessary to encourage full and frank disclosure including reasonable measures beyond the protection offered by the company’s whistleblowing procedures. Any former employee who may have relevant information, who signed a confidentiality clause as part of a compromise agreement on leaving the company, will be released from that confidentiality clause for the purposes of giving evidence to the Inquiry.

Network Rail will meet the fees of the person conducting the Inquiry and the administration costs of the Inquiry and will, in addition, meet any legal expenses incurred by any witness who requests independent legal assistance that are deemed reasonable by the person conducting the Inquiry.

The person appointed to conduct the Inquiry will be mutually acceptable to Network Rail and the TSSA.

When the Inquiry has formed a considered opinion on the validity or otherwise of the allegations they should:

- distribute the opinion to specified individuals within Network rail and TSSA who have given confidentiality undertakings.
- communicate publicly his/her findings, but only after any consequential disciplinary, civil and criminal proceedings have concluded.
- issue a statement of full exoneration in the event that the opinion formed is that the allegations are proved to be groundless.
- provide Network Rail with such assistance as is reasonably necessary to enable Network Rail to take such further action as is appropriate in view of his/her findings.

The Inquiry should be completed as soon as reasonably possible.

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