I'm pretty sure the guy at the top was in on the ruse too.
By your comment, I'm pretty sure you've never worked a contract for government at a high level.
For a reality-based perspective, understand that silos are DEATH to most projects, and government structures are ALL SILOS. The fact that every single one of the "senior political figures" refused (make no mistake--it is always an active decision) is just par for the course.
So, how to change this? There are two key policies that must be implemented from the top:
1) The career of anyone who lies or fails to report bad news up the chain to those who need it is over, regardless of that person's position.
2) The reporting of bad news is to be treated as a problem to be solved, not an issue with the messenger (or the person who caused it).
Example: at a major metropolitan newspaper, a tech made a mistake and rm -rf * the website's home directory. He immediately reported it up the chain and the team dropped everything and worked on restoring the files. They then sat down and discussed how to mitigate the problem so that human error could not cause the same situation or how it could be restored quicker when it happened again. No retaliatory action was taken against the tech.