Andrew Neil makes the mistake a lot of people make when it comes to contemporary disasters:
Investigators think an electrical short-circuit was the most likely cause of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire.
Next question: was that short-circuit related to the underfunding of the restoration work?
Let’s hope French journalists more curious and robust than they usually are
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) April 18, 2019
I am confident underfunding of the project won’t be the cause: it will have been eye-wateringly expensive. As I’ve written about at length on here, the problem is that modern organisations are infested with managerialism whereby compliance with the latest fad – often government imposed – is given higher priority than making sure the electrics are safe. I’ve seen the compliance hoops contractors have to jump through just to participate in tenders for the public sector and large corporations. Last September commenter Graeme gave us this gem:
“Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) in 2015, UK companies with turnovers above £36m have needed to produce a statement setting out the steps they have taken to eradicate slavery and human trafficking from their operations and supply chains. Of the 9,000 to 11,000 companies in scope, all should have published a first statement prominently on a corporate website by September 2017. By March 2018, only 5,600 had done so, according to CORE, a coalition made up of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), academics, lawyers and trade unions that focuses on corporate responsibility.”
Companies nowadays not only have to demonstrate they employ the requisite number of women and aren’t mean to their LGBT employees, but also that their entire supply chain is free of child labour and exploitative practices and they are not helping to perpetuate slavery and human trafficking. This wildly inflates the cost of any project, and keeps dozens of middle class graduates employed giving presentations to one another in air conditioned offices, but adds little value to the job actually getting done. This has reached the point – as we saw with Carillion (1, 2) – that the core business of many large companies nowadays is overcoming the compliance hurdles and buttering up the right people (mainly by employing them in a cosy public-private revolving door system) so they can win contracts. How they then actually go about doing the work is of secondary concern, and most of it will be subcontracted to the lowest bidder. At a guess, the works on Notre Dame were managed by an army of people shuffling paper while the electrics were installed by a contractor who had the lowest bid and spoke Arabic better than he did French. Supervision would have been negligible with QA/QC consisting of a piece of paper signed off by someone who never physically saw the completed works.
This is speculation and I may be wrong of course, but Notre Dame did catch fire and it wasn’t supposed to. Between the entire project being underfunded and a scenario similar to that which I describe above, I know which one I’d choose.