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Carillion Stakeholders Failed By Enterprise Risk Management ERM and The UK’s Corporate Governance System

If the best enterprise risk management principles practices and procedures were being deployed within Carillion, it would never have collapsed. If best practice corporate governance was being deployed within Carillion it would not have collapsed. At least two legs of the GRC stool have failed the Carillion stakeholders.

Carillion only collapsed this week January 2018 but what is clear is that Carillion has not been the subject of a sudden catastrophic risk event that has brought the second biggest construction firm in UK to its knees. What has happened has been a failure of enterprise risk management. The reasons for that failure are not yet known, but important questions need answering.

Unfortunately, the most important question that needs answering about Carillion is:

Why have the stakeholders of one of the UKs biggest companys been let down by enterprise risk management ERM and corporate governance again

Time and again  the biggest companies fail when failure could easily have been avoided. Carillions collapse into liquidation is due to its financial risk tolerance being exceeded. Its risk tolerance has been exceeded not due to a major risk event but due to a failure of risk management and corporate governance.

The UK governments representative assertion in the House of Commons that the UK has high corporate governance standards is laughable for most people in the UK. However for many stakeholders this farce is not laughable

  • Shareholders are not laughing. They relied on the management at Carillion it is auditors and the corporate governance and enterprise risk management principles and practices to warn them about management failure resulting in excessive risk taking.
  • Carillion Sub Contractors are not laughing as they too were relying on the Carillion management its auditors and UK governance and enterprise risk management principles to ensure that Carillion was sustainable for the short and intermediate term so that they could get paid for their work.
  • Carillion pensioners are not laughing as they too were relying on Carillion management, its auditors and the corporate governance and enterprise risk management principles and practices to protect their pensions and ensure that adequate pension contributions were maintained to cover pension liabilities.
  • Carillion employees are not laughing as they too were relying on Carillion senior management and executives, Carillions auditors and corporate governance and enterprise risk management principles and practices to ensure that adequate money is set aside to cover work completed and work planned for a sustainable future.
  • End users are not laughing now as they may not have roads hospitals and infrastructure they could reasonably expect to have from their taxpayers buck or suffer delays accessing them due to the failure of enterprise risk management in practice.
  • Taxpayers shouldn’t be laughing now more money will need to be allocated to solving the short term problems from Carillions collapse but there is also close to a billion pound hole in the Carillion pension pot that will need to be partially filled by taxpayer money.

Questions are also being asked about the adequacy of the government’s procurement systems. Government contracts have very recently been awarded after management reports and auditors reports during a long procurement process yet the pack of cards came tumbling down very shortly after procurement contracts awarded. This in part must be due to the failure of enterprise risk management to provide accurate information to those charged with government procurement but is an inherent failure of enterprise risk management more than the procurers.

More questions needing answers:

  • Why have dividends been paid when there is close to a billion pound black hole in the pension pot?
  • Why has the UK government continued to award contracts to a company that has issued profit warnings?
  • Why are past and present executives still entitled to financial benefits even though they have clearly performed poorly?
  • Why are executives still being rewarded for failure when we were assured after the financial collapse of 2008 that never again will excessive risk-takers be rewarded for negligence or incompetence?
  • Why hasn’t the auditors reports picked up the weakness in Carillions business model?
  • Why are large corporate entities allowed to run with inadequately funded pension pots?
  • Why do our biggest companies operate under a largely self governing, virtually voluntary system of corporate governance instead of an explicit mandatory system fully backed up with criminal penalties for failure to comply?
  • Why has Carillion failed when the deployment of enterprise risk management principles practices and procedures would have corrected its decision-making to avoid collapse?
  • What part did the culture of the organisation play in overpowering enterprise risk management principles practices and procedures?
  • Why is enterprise risk management methodology not backed up with robust legislation that would impose severe criminal penalties for non-compliance?   The UK government backed away from such an approach and Carillion is the result of our inadequate statutory backing of good enterprise risk management ERM.

The argument that the UK would not be able to find anyone willing to run our biggest companies if severe criminal penalties awaited executive indiscretions is nonsense.   Many people with sufficient qualities would step up and would perhaps have stronger morals and integrity  than the present incumbents.   They would be supported and protected by deploying best practice enterprise risk management principles practices and procedures and the UK might actually avoid future disappointments for its shareholders, pensioners, supply chain, end users and taxpayers.



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