RIAS secretary labels a report into the handling of Glasgow’s George Square design a ‘whitewash’
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Neil Baxter voiced his anger after Glasgow City Council auditors published a ‘lessons learned’ review following the completion of phase 1 of the high-profile George Square redevelopment.
The report identifies the positive and negative processes up to the completion of the design contest in early 2013. However, the document does not mention why Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson scrapped the entire scheme shortly after John McAslan + Partners was selected for the £15 million revamp ahead of Matheson’s preferred choice, London-based Burns + Nice.
At the time Matheson justified his decision by claiming: ‘The people of Glasgow have made it clear in no uncertain terms that they do not want a radical redesign of the square’ (AJ 21.01.13).
Responding to the publication of the audit document, Baxter told the AJ: ‘It is a whitewash of a shambles.’
The Lessons Learned review found that the roles and responsibilities of the commodity team could have been ‘better identified’, a separate ‘more detailed’ business case should have been prepared and that ‘too much reliance’ had been placed on the RIAS.
‘In relation to the comments about over-reliance on the RIAS, if they mean that we made the council aware of the potential illegality of their process… well, the RIAS is clearly beneficial to any client who wants to act lawfully, but not to those who do not want to act lawfully.’
Baxter added: ‘This situation was entirely of the council leader’s making.’
Last November the RIAS called in the ombudsman after a Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life (CESPL) report exonerated Matheson of any wrong-doing in the way he ran the controversial competition.
The RIAS brought the complaint against Matheson after it was alleged he had failed to obey the rules of the design competition and also tried to coerce staff to influence the judges (AJ 22.04.13).
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: ‘The Lessons Learned process is standard practice in project management. The feedback helps officers develop working practices for future large-scale projects. Officers working on the project didn’t identify any issues relating to elected members.’
Glasgow George Square report 'a whitewash of a shambles'