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Exclusive: Government to 'name and shame' non-Y2k compliant companies

The government sponsored Action 2000 is considering a "name and shame" campaign to publicly humiliate companies that fail to tackle the millennium bug, it was confirmed today.
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Gwynneth Flower, MD of Action 2000 told ZDNet news this morning that the organisation set up by Tony Blair in January, is "moving close to the point where we will go into name and shame activity". Those targeted for closest scrutiny will be organisations "crucial to the economy" according to Flower.

Dialogue between Action 2000 and companies (both the FTSE 500 and public service) has revealed extensive gaps in preparedness for the millennium which Flower believes will have a negative effect on an already shaky economy. For the larger, more influential organisations Flower was clear: "We will definitely name and shame them." She admitted the move would be a last resort and believes that there is more to be gained by threatening to do it than actually doing it. "We would move heaven and earth first" she said.

According to Don Cruickshank, chairman of Action 2000, the government is no longer prepared to rely on general assurances, particularly from the public sector. From Thursday, utilities and telecoms companies will be forced to disclose where they are in terms of preparedness. In September Cruickshank told The Times that the government "could take away licences from companies if they failed to make adequate preparations for dealing with the millennium bug".

This new hard line approach does not bode well for certain sections of the economy, particularly construction, agriculture and transport, which Cruickshank identified as being "far from ready". He delivered a stark message to them: "I hesitate to use the phrase zero tolerance, but there is no room for companies that provide public services to be non-compliant." For these "the (public) disclosure will be much deeper," he added.

Robin Guenier, executive director of Taskforce 2000 (another millennium bug organisation set up by the conservative government and replaced by Action 2000 this year) believes public naming and shaming was needed long ago. "We have been calling for 10 months for chief executives of the main utilities to make a public statement about readiness. We need public action today or we are heading for a real disaster."

The news follows the latest survey from Action 2000, which reveals there are still major shortfalls in large companies preparedness in the run up to the Year 2000.

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