An environmental inspector responsible for monitoring Tata Steel is now working for the steel giant, leaving locals and critics of the steel giant’s controversial environmental record ‘gobsmacked’, the Volkskrant reported.
Lawyer Bénédicte Ficq, who is acting for 1,200 locals and numerous foundations in a case against Tata Steel said the inspector’s career switch is ‘a very worrying development’.
‘This is the power of money,’ Ficq told the paper. ‘It’s about acquiring knowledge from the body that is monitoring you to make it easier to continue in your polluting ways,’ she said.
A Tata Steel spokesman dismissed the criticism as ‘insinuations’ and ‘bar room gossip’ and said that the company ‘welcomed a strong monitoring body’.
However, the department the woman worked for, the Noordzeekanaalgebied, has been criticised by the provincial policy watchdog Randstedelijke Rekenkamer which called its working practices ‘sloppy’ and ‘not up to the task’ of monitoring Tata Steel effectively, the paper said.
Sanne Walvisch, of the foundation Frisse Wind, which is represented by Ficq, told the paper the inspector had told her about her decision in person. ‘She seemed quite robust. But then all of a sudden she was gone. She won’t just be taking all strategic knowledge of the environmental service with her but everything we have shared with her as well,’ Walvisch said.
Tata Steel did not actively recruit among environmental inspectors, the spokesman said. The woman had told her new boss that ‘she had a good feeling about the possibility to contribute to change from within the organisation’, he said.
A spokesman for her former employer said it is not unheard of for people who work for the environmental service to take a job with one of the companies under their supervision. ‘There’s no law against it,’ he told the paper.
Staff are obliged to sign a non disclosure agreement which covers a period after they have left the job. It is not known how long that term is in this case, or what sanctions apply if that term is breached.
In January this year, public health institute RIVM said the Tata steelworks is the main source of metal and polycarbon-based pollutants in the IJmond region, and figures collected by the regional health board show the pollution is more serious than the company’s own records would indicate.