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TfL director contradicts Boris on Garden Bridge procurement

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Transport for London (TfL) director of internal audit admits procurement neither ‘open nor objective’ 24 hours after London mayor Boris Johnson calls it ‘robust’

A fresh claim that the procurement process behind the Garden Bridge was ‘robust’ made by London mayor Boris Johnson has been directly contradicted by the man who oversaw mayoral body Transport for London’s internal investigation.

On Wednesday (21 October), Johnson - who is also chairman of TfL - took part in his regular Mayor’s Question Time in front of the London Assembly.

Questioned by Labour member and architect Navin Shah on the procurement of the £175 million project, he replied: ‘I think you have been misinformed about the procurement process. The evidence I have is that it was robust… I hope you enjoy the Garden Bridge when it’s built.’

But appearing yesterday (22 October) in front of the Assembly’s Oversight Committee, which is investigating the procurement following a number of stories in the AJ obtained through Freedom of Information requests, TfL’s director of internal audit Clive Walker conceded that the process was neither ‘open’ nor ‘objective’.

Walker was being questioned on the discrepancies between the final published version of TfL’s internal audit of the bridge’s procurement – which has been widely pronounced a ‘whitewash’ – and an earlier, more critical version leaked to the AJ.

The earlier version, sent in July to director of strategy and policy Richard De Cani but unpublished by TfL, directly criticised the ‘openness and objectivity’ of the two 2013 contests which saw Heatherwick Studio and Arup appointed.

A visibly uncomfortable Walker repeatedly declined to answer committee chairman Len Duvall on whether it was indeed true that the process was not open or objective, before answering ‘yes’ at the third time of asking (see webcast of meeting at 2hrs 22 mins and 50 seconds).

Critics have suggested that TfL made attempts to ‘water down’ the audit and introduce elements which reflected well on its performance.

Duvall asked why achieving ‘value for money’ was not mentioned in the first version of the audit, but became a prominent and positive feature of the published version.

‘I think Richard de Cani said it would be useful to have it in and [TfL general counsel] Howard Carter also said it would help the report,’ Walker replied.

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Boris Johnson is not just the mayor, he is also the chair of TfL....

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  • Thanks Chris - I've amended the story to add that fact.
    Best,

    Will Hurst
    Deputy Editor
    AJ

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  • Can we have an architect as London Mayor please?

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  • At what point does this become a scandal? I am confused. As Mayor of London and Chairman of TFL, he twisted the procurement process to divert £30 million of taxpayer's money to an old family friend and a favoured designer.

    Now he has baldly lied to the London Assembly.

    Why is it only Will Hurst who seems to be treating this as the scandal that it so clearly is? The reporting from AJ is brilliant, but c'mon BBC, FT, Economist, etc. Could somebody help him out? Could anyone not currently stalking Michel Platini please turn their attention to the corruption and graft in our own front yard?

    Thank you.

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  • Could Boris Johnson's perception of the meaning of 'robust' be rather different to what the hoi polloi understand by this word?
    I wonder if Mr Johnson might apply the word to anything that he thought would be accepted as credible by the credulous - but how about the incredulous?
    If Mr Johnson has such a shaky understanding of the meaning of 'robust', I wonder if he can get his head around colloquialisms like 'watered down' - or the various meanings of 'whitewash'?

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