Internal review of 2013 contest won by Heatherwick and Arup also claims crucial evidence destroyed or lost
More from: TfL probe defends Garden Bridge procurement
Transport for London (TfL) is attempting to shrug off criticism of its procurement of London’s £175m Garden Bridge after an internal review found ‘no evidence’ its selection of designer Thomas Heatherwick did not provide value for money.
The review document, published on TfL’s website, did not directly address critics’ claims the appointments of Heatherwick Studio and technical designer Arup were ‘pre-judged’. Opponents alleged the mayor Boris Johnson had been lobbied on behalf of the firms by ‘family friend’ and project backer Joanna Lumley before the competition (see AJ 06.03.15).
The internal audit ‘identified no issues’ regarding its February 2013 invited design contest between Heatherwick Studio, Wilkinson Eyre and Marks Barfield, and a later technical design contest won by Arup, in terms of the selection of bidders, the development of the tender and other aspects of the competition.
However, it claimed that TfL had lost or destroyed key documentation including information to support the commercial analysis of the designers’ bids and the technical evaluation of the Arup bid and those of its competitors.
It also criticised various aspects of TfL’s handling of the procurement, saying it had no proper strategy in place and that its role in the Garden Bridge was ‘unclear from the outset’.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the London Assembly, Caroline Pigeon, who successfully persuaded then TfL commissioner Peter Hendy to undertake the review back in June, criticised the review’s findings and called TfL’s destruction of documentation ‘staggering’.
She said: ‘This audit has sadly not been thorough and forensic. While it rightly highlights a number of areas where the process for awarding contracts needs to improve the audit is ultimately incomplete due to TfL destroying vital records.
This audit has sadly not been thorough and forensic
‘It is staggering that despite serious questions about the evaluation scores for the tenders, TfL thought there was nothing wrong in destroying vital documentation just before the audit was set to take place. TfL’s claim that the audit has not found any evidence that value for money was not provided is nonsensical when vital documents could not be examined.
‘It should be providing evidence that value for money was actually delivered. That test has not been met by this audit.’
Pidgeon has previously highlighted FOI requests made by the AJ, which revealed that Heatherwick’s fee bid was far higher than Wilkinson Eyre’s and 11 times that of its other rival Marks Barfield.
The AJ’s investigation also uncovered the fact that TfL had rated Heatherwick Studio highest for ‘relevant design experience’ despite having completed just one bridge compared to the more than 25 bridges Wilkinson Eyre had designed including the Stirling Prize-winning Gateshead Millennium bridge.
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘An extensive and thorough review of the procurement has been undertaken by a separate audit team and this has concluded that the procurement of designers for the Garden Bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders and there is no evidence the process did not provide value for money.
‘As part of this thorough review, the audit has identified that some supporting documents, in the form of hand written notes from interviews with bidders were disposed of earlier this year as part of an office move - two years after the interviews were carried out and before the audit was requested. However, all scores from the evaluation process that was undertaken were properly recorded and filed appropriately in line with TfL procedures. The audit confirms that the “tender evaluation was carried out in accordance with TfL procedures’.
‘The fact these hand written notes could not be found as part of the recent audit has absolutely no bearing on the findings of the audit.’