Arup was the only one of 13 firms competing for the Thames Garden Bridge consultancy deal invited to revise its bid at tender stage, it has emerged.
The firm secured an £8M contract from Transport for London (TfL) to develop the technical design of the controversial crossing.The revelation that one of the bidder was invited to revise its tender follows a review of the project’s procurement ordered by London transport commissioner Peter Hendy.
The bids were invited from all companies on TfL’s engineering and project management framework, with tenders received by the client in May 2013.
The review, carried out by TfL internal audit director Clive Walker, found that:
- Arup’s commercial submission was in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. “We would have expected a formal commercial submission,” said Walker.
- Arup was placed seventh out of 13 bidders, with the firm’s high cost mitigated by a judgement that its technical bid was of high quality. But no supporting documentation was available relating to individual technical evaluation scores. This documentation was disposed of “as a result of an office move and introduction of hot desking policy” according to Walker.
- Arup was asked to review its fees, leading to a second submission. “None of the other bidders were given the opportunity to revise their submissions and there was no ‘best and final offer’ stage included in the procurement,” said Walker. “It would have been best practice to have done this.”
- There was an error in how Arup’s commercial submission was analysed, with some rates taken from the first submission and some from the second. This resulted in an uplift in Arup’s score, although this “did not affect the final placing of the bidders” said Walker.
Walker concluded: “The manner in which the evaluation process [in this procurement] was undertaken did not follow TfL procurement policy and procedure in a number of instances.
“However, the audit did not find any evidence that would suggest the final recommendations did not provide value for money from the winning bidders.”
TfL’s contract with Arup ended in April 2015, and all management responsibility for the proposed crossing has passed to the Garden Bridge Trust.
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 [first] ‘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.”
Arup declined to comment.
The Garden Bridge Trust last month submitted revised construction plans to Lambeth and Westminster councils as part of preparations for starting work on the controversial crossing early next year.