I have been following these reports on behalf of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) which will advise Scottish ministers on any recommended action. Motability essentially consists of two parts: the Motability Charity, and its much bigger commercial arm Motability Operations, which leases the vehicles. The NAO raises questions on too many issues - from executive pay, value for money and the extent of influence of Motability Charity on Motability Operations - to comment on here, but one thing which has struck me is the apparently cosy world which seems to have dominated many key governance roles.
For example, until last year, the average tenure of Motability Charity trustees was 18 years. Motability Operations had the same auditor (Price Waterhouse Cooper) for 24 years until last year http://fr.zone-secure.net/-/MotabilityAnnualReportAndAccounts2018/-/#page=70 Four out of the five listed directors of Motability Operations appear to have been recruited from two companies (Lease Plan UK and Dial UK) which share a common address https://www.motabilityoperations.co.uk/about-us/our-executive-team/#0. In addition, it seems that almost all Trustees and Non Executive Directors have traditionally been London-based.
Motability is a success story, having grown massively since it was founded as a modest charitable venture by its current Chair Lord Sterling and the late Lord Goodman in 1977. Motability must now be by far the biggest player in the UK’s ‘accessible transport’ field, with some 625,000 customers and a turnover of over £4 billion a year. It would be therefore reasonable to expect the highest levels of transparency and accountability to its customers and the the public in general, especially as it is ultimately paid for entirely through disabled peoples’ benefits. Stability may be a virtue, but would such ‘generous’ levels of executive pay and ‘large unplanned profits’ (to use NAO’s terms) have been challenged more effectively if there had been more change in personnel and greater diversity?
A number of significant changes appear to have been made in 2018, presumably in response to the new levels of political and NAO scrutiny: for example several new appointments have been made both to the Board of trustees of the charity and Non Executive Directors in Motability Operations, and a new auditor appointed. Motability (the charity) has promised to implement in full all the NAO recommendations, so is likely to remain in public eye in 2019 while efforts are made to improve governance.