The procurement of the Garden Bridge is to be examined by former Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge, London mayor Sadiq Khan has announced
Hodge will carry out a review to examine whether taxpayers have got value for money from their contribution to the £185 million Thomas Heatherwick-designed scheme and ‘investigate the work of TfL, the GLA and other relevant authorities around the Garden Bridge going back to when the project was first proposed’, the mayor’s office said.
The AJ first raised questions about the scheme’s procurement in December 2014 and has used Freedom of Information requests to make a string of revelations since then.
Khan first called for a ‘proper investigation’ in the AJ a year ago when campaigning as a mayoral candidate, but was thought to be dragging his heels on the issue until today.
The review, which will cost up to £25,000 and will result in a published report, will look at the procurement process in detail and also whether required standards of transparency and openness have been met on the scheme.
Hodge said: ‘The planned bridge is a major project in an iconic part of London, and there are clearly questions that remain unanswered around issues like procurement.
‘From his first day in office Sadiq has been relentless in his drive to ensure Londoners get value for money, both around the Garden Bridge and other areas of major spending. I look forward to presenting the findings of the review, and assessing the lessons we can learn for other major projects in our city.’
I’m determined the review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking
Khan said Hodge was ‘hugely respected’ for her work in scrutinising some of the UK’s largest and most high-profile public bodies.
‘There’s no better qualified person to get to the bottom of the procurement process around the Garden Bridge, and establish whether Londoners have been getting value for money since the project began,’ he said.
‘I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge, but I’m also determined that the Garden Bridge review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking.’
Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley – one of the members who produced the assembly’s earlier report on the procurement - welcomed the review and said it was in marked contrast to the actions of Boris Johnson who ‘did nothing to clear up the murkiness’ surrounding the project.
Fellow committee member and leader of the Lib Dem group in the assembly, Caroline Pidgeon, also welcomed the review but warned the mayor not to ‘hide behind it’ as an excuse not to take action.
She said: ‘Although it was not his decision to start this project he increasingly makes excuses and apologies for the mess first started by Boris Johnson.
‘It is time Sadiq Khan finally said he will not underwrite any taxpayer funded bailouts for the maintenance of this project.’