Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Toot Toot!

I'm not normally one to be blowing whistles but recent events have angered me to the point of action. Action in the form of leaking sensitive information to a contact in the media for public dissemination.

It seemed like a good thing to do at the time.

However, I am somewhat conflicted - although I believe that there certainly is a case for some individuals, if not an entire organisation, to be held accountable - it also may burn some bridges that I could do with remaining intact.

Mainly, though, I'm personally aggrieved and really just pissed off.

So what's the story?

Some months ago our Fair City suffered the effects of a natural disaster that damaged (to varying degrees) almost 40% of residential properties. The authority that deals with such things started operations of post-disaster assessment and teams of "loss-adjusters" were brought in from abroad.

The magnitude of the event, however, meant more and more "loss adjusters" (if you are wondering why the term is in quotation marks, read on) were required and word was put out in certain circles that positions were open for contractors.

Sounds fairly routine so far?

Well, no. You see, given that there aren't that many actual loss adjusters floating about aimlessly, someone made a decision to reach out to former colleagues and co-workers to bolster the numbers. That someone was apparantly one Harry Earl (not his real name), a former police officer.

The call went out that any ex-police who were interested in the work should make contact. A two-day course would be held and the contractors would work for a month. If they met requirements, they would be kept on for the duration.

These out-of-towners would be flown to our City, would be put up in a hotel, given a rental car and would receive around $1070 per day - which includes meal allowances. Each cycle was 6 days on, 1 off, for 3 weeks followed by 1 week's leave. Repeat.

So where do I fit in?

Well, although I had already heard of the ex-police hiring policy, I had recently fallen in with a group of other investigators - all of whom are ex-police. This opportunity was brought to the attention to the leader of our group and we submitted a group application. And by "application", there were no forms etc - we just submitted our names and were told that even an interview was not necessary.

We were accepted!

This was a very big deal for me, I can tell you! It was the solution to all my troubles. I went away on holiday not knowing that my troubles had barely yet begun.

On Boxing Day I received a call that another Event had ocurred and, this time, my offices were damaged. I cut short my trip and came back to find that the building I live and work out of was decreed 'off limits' pending an engineer's report. I was homeless again for the second time in 4 months and unable to conduct business easily.

But that wasn't all the good news, no. I was also told that my application had been passed over because I was not ex-police.

I cannot express how I felt right at that moment.

It's one thing to be excluded because of a lack of relevant experience, skills, or qualifications but, in this case, it was solely because I had not worn a blue uniform at some point of my life. My experience, skills, or qualifications were not even considered.

Before this news was delivered, I already knew that the authority running the show did not want it public knowledge that the "loss adjusters" were actually just ex-police with 2 days training. Perhaps it would undermine public confidence or something.

Rashly, I decided that I should speak to someone at the authority and have them explain their hiring policy to me. So that's what I did. The first person I spoke to was a typical call-centre type - he couldn't be of any assistance so he bumped me up to his supervisor. All she did was take my name and contact details to have someone call me back. My last comment was that it had better be sooner rather than later because if I did not otherwise hear from them, I'd discuss the matter with the media.

Well, that pretty much did the job.

I received a call from Mr Earl (remember, that's not his real name) who accused me of harrassing and abusing his staff - something I never did. Mr Earl tried to convey to me that essentially I had failed a test - that they were after individuals who could follow instructions, write reports, and were reliable. He further stated that I could go to the media, for all he cared...

I don't see being told you were excluded as being a 'test'. I was excluded for not being ex-police, end of story.

That's not really the end of the story though; I contacted a reporter I know and gave him a brief rundown on what had transpired. Well, I might have also given him specific names, details of certain conversations, and also a particular email which clearly stipulates this hiring directive.

I have since found out that the phones were running hot after my discussion with Mr Earl, particularly when the reporter started asking some pointed questions. My name is now very well known in some circles, not fondly either. 

Regrettably, this has also pissed off some of my colleagues who feel that the negative attention of the press may adversely affect them. This is something I do not wish to happen either so, in deference to them, have promised not to give any more information out to the media. 

For now I'll wait and see what develops. The reporter should have enough information to go on with.

I cannot help but think if this happened in, say, a South-East Asian country - or perhaps in Latin America - we would label it as corruption (and in particular, cronyism) yet, when it happens here, it's just the Old Boy's Network and somehow more palatable.

What truly pisses me off is the lack of transparency regarding the entire process, and the lack of any principles of meritocracy. Also, rather than providing employment to suitably skilled locals, the reliance has been on bringing in contractors from other parts of the country and even abroad, at additional cost, of course. Cost to the taxpayers, taken out of the pool of funds paying for reconstruction etc.

So, I'll just wait and see what develops. I see the reporter in question has also found some other interesting news peripheral to this particular issue and hope to see something in print within a day or two...


  1. Hmmm.... Please post any links to the reporter's stories if and when they become available.

    Kind of a risky move with the whistle blowing - hoping that it doesn't backfire for you!

  2. Well that sucks mate. Good on you for blowing the whistle, that kind of business dealings should be made public. Lets just hope it does not come back to bite you on the ass.

    And please do post the links to the news article when it comes up.

  3. Watching with interested eyes from across the Tasman. The "loss adjusters" have already come under fire for hiring Australian contractors.

  4. You must have smiled about some of the coverage in the recent report into police culture:

  5. Sadly, no, can't say I was smiling exactly. But there is a certain level of smugness...