News has broken that the UK’s shale gas commissioner Natascha Engel, a former Labour MP, has resigned.
Ms Engel has claimed her departure was due to her ‘being throttled by rules preventing mini earthquakes.’ She has also stated that the government was “pandering to what we know to be myths and scare stories” about shale gas extraction.
Nevertheless, unlike the domesticated media, some folk are asking one searching question
‘Did she fall or was she pushed?’
Unearthed is Greenpeace’s journalism project. They have been investigating this woman’s actions. Engel has apparently admitted to habitually deleting correspondence from important meetings with fracking companies in a move that may have violated transparency requirements.
The issue of freedom of information requests etc has resulted in Engle seeking to dismiss claims that she is in violation of regulations.
She had stated that the Unearthed investigation had “absolutely no bearing” on her odd decision to quit the top pro-fracking position that she’s held for just 6 months. It is reported that Engle also said: “I have not routinely destroyed my correspondence, what I’ve done is answered correspondence and deleted anything that I don’t need in order not to have an inbox that’s very full.”
Engle’s newly disclosed lack of an applicable records management policy has led to growing condemnation from politicians and campaigners.
Green Party asks – was it a cover-up?
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, stated: “This appears to be at best a case of incompetence and at worst a deliberate attempt to cover up information that the commissioner does not want to make public. There is clearly a very strong public interest in having emails and notes of meetings made available and it is simply unacceptable if they are being purposefully deleted and destroyed.”
Engle’s failure to take (or keep) notes and systematic destruction of her correspondence with industry may indicate that this inattentive commissioner has breached the EIR and the Information Commissioner’s guidance. This requires public authorities to have a transparent records management policy in place and – in respect of environmental information – “take reasonable steps to organise the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.”
Whatever the truth is, the latest disclosures appear to indicate that professionalism in high government places now runs at an all-time low.
In view of the current situation, many interested persons will now be asking if Engel was ‘advised from above’ to fall on her own sword to save the government further embarrassment.
Tip of the iceberg?
Did the Conservative government’s top fracking advocate resign due to feeling stifled by her own government’s actions, or did she resign to save any sensitive additional disclosures about her humiliating failure to keep proper records and remain transparent to the public?
If it’s the latter then this may also pose the larger question of public accountability regarding countless other intransigent government officials and politicians that may follow Engle’s habit of NOT keeping good records.
Is this just the tip of the iceberg of government unprofessionalism?
Pat Regan ©
See also: Natascha Engel and her questionable expenses