An opinion-splitting report has slammed London mayor Boris Johnson’s procurement of the controversial Garden Bridge
A statement by the Greater London Authority oversight committee described Boris Johnson’s procurement of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed planted bridge across the Thames as beset by ‘blunders’ and ‘confusion’.
In a report published today by City Hall after what the committee described as an ‘intensive investigation’, the mayor is chastised for failing to be upfront about the ‘range and nature’ of contacts between his office, senior management at Transport for London and architects Heatherwick Studio.
The report claims there were a ‘series of procedural errors in the procurement process’ and that an audit into the procurement by the mayor’s officials had failed to address its original aim.
Previous Freedom of Information Requests carried out by the Architects’ Journal had uncovered meetings between London mayor Boris Johnson or senior members of his team and Heatherwick prior to the bridge competition and secret trips to promote the project before it had been procured.
The report gives ‘special mention…to the excellent investigative work of Will Hurst and the Architects’ Journal for their persistent and meticulous scrutiny of this project.’
A majority of the committee concluded that ‘the objectivity and fairness of this procurement process was adversely affected by these actions, [casting] a shadow on the ultimate outcome.’
The report resulting from the committee’s investigation has however split the opinion of its members.
While its conclusions were supported by assembly members from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, and Green parties, the Conservative group produced a ‘minority report’ contesting some of their colleagues’ key claims.
In their minority report, the Tories said the report should have focused on ‘the difficulty of procurement when a project evolves significantly’.
‘This project was a textbook example of this and a focus on the challenges this created and the lessons that [Transport for London] should learn from this would have been a very valuable piece of work’.
The Conservatives also described the report’s ‘emphasis’ on an early and leaked draft of an audit report into the procurement as ‘unreasonable’.
A suggestion by assembly members from the other party groups that changes between an early and final draft suggested a ‘conspiracy’ was a ‘huge error’, the minority report added.
‘It is entirely normal that a first draft would be written by a junior officer and then improved or corrected by a more senior officer,’ it stated.
The report comes as the Garden Bridge Trust signed the construction contract for the bridge effectively giving the go-ahead for work to start.
Construction work on the bridge is planned to commence in the summer of 2016 and to be completed in late 2018.
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: ‘An audit of Transport for London’s procurement process found that it was open, fair and transparent’.
’The mayor believes the Garden Bridge will be a spectacular new addition to London, and building is due to begin this year on a project that is widely supported by Londoners and businesses on both sides of the river.’
This story was updated at 14:24 on 17/3/2016 to include a comment from the London mayor.