Please Do the Math First!


Please Do the Math First!

I have just looked at and “binned” a major tender to design, finance, build, operate and transfer some major parking infrastructure for a city; I won’t name them. The city had the real estate and, frankly, plenty of money; but they decided to go to the market. They launched the tender and looked for bids from people who would not only deliver what they wanted, but also pay a rent for the site for 30 years before passing the facilities back to the city.
Only trouble was, they wanted to fix the price charged.
Even on the most optimistic assumption, the revenue would cover less than half the construction cost, let alone the financing and running costs. Working this out is not rocket science. A few reasonable assumptions and a couple of hours on a notepad with a calculator, and anyone who can count above 10 without taking their shoes off could see the projects can’t stack up.
The originators didn’t bother to do this, so they wasted thousands of dollars of their money in running the tender, plus the time and money of anyone that responded. Even if someone was brave, or foolish, enough to make an offer, it won’t stack up and will probably fall apart before they even start building, with all the attendant recriminations and, probably, court action.
All they had to do was talk to anyone in the business, and they would have had the financial reality explained to them PDQ.
I think that anyone in the public sector that seeks bids from the private sector has a duty to make sure that what they are tendering is a viable project before asking anyone else to spend their money putting a bid together. Anyone who doesn’t is intellectually lazy and morally indefensible, and probably not worth their pay check.
There is an almost continuous litany of stories in our UK press about local authorities who have issued parking tickets unfairly, i.e., to people who parked other than where allowed by the local regulations. This has got so bad that at least one government minister actively attacks the law enforcers and sides with the law breakers. (In another age, that was called treason, and he would have paid with his head on Tower Hill – happy days.)
Sometimes, of course, the Council gets it wrong, and unfortunately too often, they cancel the ticket with bad grace and a distinct lack of apology to the wronged driver. Indeed, often when they are shown to have a fundamentally flawed traffic order (the local ordinance that creates the rules), they flatly refuse to refund the money that they have collected, sometimes over many years, quite unlawfully; or worse, carry on writing tickets even when they know they have no power to do so.
Three cheers, therefore, for Calderdale Council. Six years on, the Council has found that one of its 2008 orders has a flaw that renders it invalid. Have they made excuses, have they argued? No, they have suspended all the affected parking charges and are working to refund all the 7,000 affected parking fines, setting up a phone help line for affected drivers.
The hiatus while the order is corrected will cost the Council about $350,000 in lost revenues, and they will have to pay back a similar sum in penalty refunds, but they have held their hands up and done the right things.
Well done, Calderdale; it’s a pity more councils don’t have the
same standards.
Again, It’s Not Rocket Science, Guys
As most of you know, I live on an island; it’s called Great Britain. If you want to bring a car here, there are about 20 to 25 places you can enter – one tunnel, the rest ports.
Under UK law, if you bring a car into the country and stay for a minute more than six months, you have to re-register the car here. We are a major European tourist destination and, unfortunately, a lot of people from Europe who live and work here do not re-register their cars when they move here.
What this means is that there are millions of pounds owed by people driving foreign-registered vehicles who park illegally, speed, run red lights and generally ignore our motoring laws and vehicle standards, safe in the knowledge that they will get away with it. Some of the worst offenders even see this as a good enough reason not to pay for gas!
Now, a European convention does allow for cross-border prosecution of motoring fines, and that would allow the collection of speeding and red light fines from across borders, and that should take care of visitors driving badly. The problem is those who live here and don’t re-register their vehicles.
The vehicle becomes stateless, not registered here or in their home country because they have moved away. The result is that, over the last 18 months, something like $4m is owed by speeders, plus more by red light runners, and several millions more in parking fines. The worst case appears to be a vehicle caught doing 109 mph in a 50 mph zone.
Some years ago, when I was interested in such things, I remember meeting government to discuss the issue. Say, 25 points of entry, LPR on each lane, a computer database letting you know when and where everyone came in and went out. After six months, they are red flagged and stopped. And when they reach the exit lane to go home, if they owe a ticket, pull them over and collect the money due.
But “no,” said the permanent Under-Secretary in Charge of Paper Clips. Recording vehicle number plates, before they broke the law, would infringe Johnny Foreigner’s human rights, notwithstanding that in parts of Europe they stop you and either collect the money or keep the car.
The wheel turns, and suddenly we record everything for “anti-terrorist” reasons, and just as suddenly a cash-strapped government has seen an opportunity and perhaps, just perhaps, in the not too distant future, the vehicle that’s been driven ’round the island for a couple of years, these anti-social bad boys will have to walk home as their car heads to the crusher.
New Zealand
Speeding kills more people than any other form of bad driving behavior, and the cops in New Zealand have a great way of dealing with speeders. More than a set amount over the posted limit, and they take your car for 30 days.
No arguments, no special cases.
You’re rushing to a hospital, they will call an ambulance. Your mother can’t walk far, they will call a taxi. But the car goes in the pound for 30 days. You also pay the tow fee and a “stonking” great fine.

Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK, is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at

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