Building Magazine takes a look at Olympics Construction

Building Magazine this week has a comprehensive analysis of the Olympic construction programme and in particular the role of ODA and their delivery partners CLM.  I’ve contributed a section to it, based on our FOI questions to ODA which revealed back in February the cost of the CLM contract.

The author, Will Hurst of Building, addresses two questions – was the programme worth the money, and should other public bodies follow the model used by the ODA? He sees things much as we do.

The success is such that ODA chairman Sir John Armitt has recommended that the principles of procurement and programme management used by the ODA/CLM delivery vehicle are rolled out to apply to all public sector projects worth more than £10m. However, while the ODA/CLM arrangement has clearly worked in delivering the venues, and hugely benefited the businesses involved, questions remain. As Building revealed last month, CLM is now expected to earn a final figure of £650m, 60% above the £400m quoted by ministers when the final £9.3bn budget for the Games was agreed in 2007”.

So yes, the programme was a great success in terms of the physical outcomes – but was the cost reasonable? The answer may well be “yes” but it deserves some further analysis, as the article suggests. And as we said here, before we get too excited about  this as a model for every future construction project in the public sector, we need to understand that the success didn’t come cheap! CLM were very well paid, and in turn used some expensive but highly capable resource.

The article also looks at alternatives - could Government develop their own skills to run such projects successfully? The conclusion seems to be “no” but it does seem a shame that there was so little skills transfer to civil servants during the CLM work. Building then asks whether the private sector really wants the civil service to upskill - because that would reduce the amount of work for private firms.

“But Alan Macklin, a director at CH2M Hill UK and a former programme and project management skills champion at the MoD, insists this is not the case, arguing that there will always be a need for private-sector expertise in this area, and that having a more sophisticated client in government would be a boon. “I don’t believe the private sector has a vested interest in preventing government upskilling: the private sector wants a more intelligent client to interact with - the ODA’s Learning Legacy website is a great example of this,” he says”.

This amused me – I was at University with Macklin, who was a highly regarded Major-General working in MOD Defence Equipment  and Support until recently, when he was tempted out to the private sector. So he is arguably a good example of the private sector actually poaching someone who actually was a strong public sector intelligent client!

Anyway, the Building article is a good and interesting read - you can get the whole piece here. You have to register first (if you haven’t already done so) but it is then free to access.

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Voices (2)

  1. Ian Heptinstall:

    Did you find out how many of the “average of 472” staff were long-term staff of Mace/LaingOR/CH2M and how many recruited for the job?

    The argument for the model assumes they are long-term staff, otherwise couldnt the ODA have taken them on for the duration?

  2. Phoenix:

    Of course the private sector is incentivised to up-skill those working in the public sector. That’s because the Government is then paying their “apprentices” before they tempt them over with a better salary and prospects. And with none of that horrible, messy business of having to get rid of those that don’t cut it. The cases where the Government pays handsomely enough to retain the best talent are sadly few and far between, which is why private sector expertise will always be needed, especially for the bigger projects.

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