Police Asked to Investigate Garden Bridge Procurement – Spend Matters Quoted in National Press!

So the fuss about the Garden Bridge contracts has not abated, and was covered in the Observer and The Independent newspapers yesterday, including substantial quotes from our article here. From the Observer:

"Scotland Yard is to be asked to investigate misconduct allegations involving London mayor Boris Johnson and the Transport for London (TfL) procurement process behind the capital’s proposed garden bridge.

Campaigners are to submit a formal complaint to the Metropolitan police over allegations of “malfeasance in public office” regarding the mayor and the decision to award designer Thomas Heatherwick and the engineering firm Arup lucrative contracts for work on the controversial bridge across the Thames".

I was somewhat surprised to be quoted as a "former UK government adviser", as I did not speak to the newspaper. They simply took the quotes from the article we published last week and the subsequent comments, and I guess did a bit of basic research on my background, but having said that, I stand by everything we said.

The Observer had this quote from Transport for London though, which is worth further comment.

TfL said it was “satisfied” that the procurement processes were “fair and transparent”. It added: “An extensive and thorough review was undertaken by a separate audit team, which concluded the procurement of designers for the garden bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders and there is no evidence the processes did not provide value for money.”

Well, that is simply disingenuous. How can you possibly think a process is "fair and transparent" when one supplier (and one supplier only) is asked to re-submit their bid with a lower price because they didn't win first time round? Or when the evaluation notes have been destroyed and only one person marked the technical bids?

I don't know how on earth the audit team could conclude that the "procurement of designers for the garden bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders " after their own very good analysis exposed the practices that clearly were not acceptable under EU regulations. Perhaps they were pressurised into coming up with that conclusion which clearly does not fit the facts.

The Independent also featured the story and my quotes, and actually linked to Spend Matters (thanks!) What is also now coming out and is reported in both papers is the various side meetings and conversations between Boris Johnson and the suppliers, outside the formal procurement process. I suspect the constraints of EU and national procurement regulations simply never occurred to Johnson. I don't think he is personally "corrupt" here, just ignorant of proper process and keen to do what he wants to do, without bothering too much about the details or indeed about whether public money is being spent as well as it could be.

Anyway, well done to the Architects Journal and Will Hurst who first exposed this, and we look forward to following the story further.

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