A report fromÂ Inspector GeneralÂ IG Calvin Scovel of the Department of Transportation on the FAA’s recent kerfluffle over the treatment of inspectors who threw down the flag on airlines’ safety inspections is a must-read.Â IG Scovel understands culture, ethics, coziness, and all the related issues that get in the way of compliance.Â There is nothing new in his recommendations, but therein lies the beauty of his report.Â Doesn’t matter whether it’s a government agency struggling with safety and inspections or a company grappling with accounting standards and financial disclosures — there are checks and balances that can foster ethics, compliance, and truth.Â In his report, Mr. Scovel recommends the following:
- Rotate FAA supervisory inspectors so that they don’t get too cozy with the airlines
- Establish an independent group to review concerns raised by inspectors about airline compliance with FAA safety and maintenance requirements
- Using a risk-based model vs. a rules-based model is indeed risky because standards slip when those affected by honoring standards and rules make their ownÂ determinations of risk for non-compliance.Â That is, if you get to decide whether to do maintenance based on your own assessment of how risky a pass on the maintenance is, you probably won’t do the maintenance.Â Fox guarding the hen house and all!
- “A wink and nod” is not appropriate for regulators who see airlines that are not in compliance
- “True will” is the stuff of effective regulation when it comes to demanding compliance from those who are regulated
There is some “push back.” as it were, from the airlines on the Scovel recommendations because of cost.Â However, the FAA has been increasingly active in the last month, taking action on longstanding issues.Â The FAA will spend $400 million over the next three years to add new lights to runways for the purpose of preventing on-ground crashes and has now finalized rules on fuel-tank flammability — at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion to airlines.
The IG has thrown down the flag, and the agency is responding.Â The story is the same — honor the rules, encourage employees to speak up when those rules are violated,Â protect employees who do raise issues, and keep those who supervise circulating so that the laxnes of cozy relationships does not set in and usurp independence.Â Â