JAMES Baker, the former US Secretary of State, is a busy man despite being well past normal retirement age. In the last year he has presided over major reports into the performance of two of the world's most prominent institutions: the George W Bush administration and British Petroleum. In November he presented the critical report and recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to the White House and this week he delivered the findings of his BP US Refineries Safety Review Panel, which looked into the devastating Texas refinery fire in March 2005 that cost 15 lives.

These reports into very different matters have one thing in common: they found much to criticise in the matters they examined and made many substantial recommendations on how things might be improved in the future. However, they got very different responses from the two men to whom they were addressed. President Bush said the Iraq Study Group report was “very interesting” but then proceded to ignore virtually all its findings and recommendations. By contrast Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, said of a report that criticised his company for serious deficiences in safety processes, ineffective leadership, and a safety culture that lacked discipline and was complacent about risk, “BP gets it and I get it. It has happened on my watch and as chief executive I have the responsibility.” BP have accepted the report's ten recommendations, including one that the board of the company should include an independent monitor on safety measures.


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