London Garden Bridge procurement process criticised

Nick Myall
Thursday 15 Oct 2015

Decision to grant the tender for London’s Garden Bridge called into question as Police are asked to investigate

London’s Metropolitan Police in the UK have reportedly been urged to investigate allegations that the procurement process behind Thomas Heatherwick’s planned garden bridge in London, ‘was rigged’.

A formal complaint has allegedly been sent to the Metropolitan Police relating to allegations of ‘malfeasance in public office’ during the decision, involving London mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London, to award designer Thomas Heatherwick and engineering firm Arup lucrative contracts to build the controversial bridge.

The main allegation is that the procurement process ‘was rigged’ and that Heatherwick and Arup had been lined up to win the contracts before tenders were issued. It has now emerged that, just days before the invitation to tender was announced by Transport for London, Johnson – who is chairman of TfL – met Heatherwick privately.

Another supposed point of contention is that a key meeting, between Mr Johnson and TfL executives, has allegedly not been recorded in the Mayor’s monthly records.

Mr Johnson is required to publish a monthly report to the London Assembly listing key decisions, however a meeting between Mr Johnson and the then TfL commissioner, Peter Hendy, and its director of strategy, Richard De Cani, was abscent from the record.

The meeting is allegedly when the approval of the scheme was granted, leading to £30 million of TfL funds being allocated to the project.

Meanwhile, a senior transport source with knowledge of the process claims the TfL board were not given an opportunity to make a decision on the garden bridge, according to reports. According to TfL papers, the first time the project was mentioned to the board was in July 2013.

In response to the allegations a TfL spokesman said: “TfL is satisfied that the procurement processes for the appointment of Heatherwick Studios and Arup were fair and transparent.

“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.”

The mayor’s office said they have nothing further to add to TfL’s statement.

The garden bridge was the idea of actress Joanna Lumley, a childhood friend of Johnson, who revealed that Heatherwick would be “happy to work on the bridge” as long ago as 2004.

Nick Myall
News Editor

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