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Arup won Portcullis House job without competition says spending watchdog

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OFFICIALS APPOINTED Ove Arup & Partners as structural engineer for the £234M Parliamentary building in London without competitive tender, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) said last week.

In addition it revealed that the architect Michael Hopkins was also appointed without a full competitive tender.

Arup's initial role was as project engineer to advise Hopkins during early project studies.

But its role increased so that by the time the project finished in 2000 the firm had become structural engineer and cladding (fenestration) engineer.

The NAO's report Construction of Portcullis House, the new Parliamentary building says that 'officials decided to use Ove Arup for the structural work on the fenestration through a supplementary contract without competition after considering legal advice, after the project team had been unable to identify other suitable firms'.

Arup's fee increased from an initial estimate of £2M to £3.2M, it revealed.

The report also questions the appointment of architect Michael Hopkins.

'The architect's association with the building . . . dates from a £25,000 appointment made in 1989 for work on some of the buildings that stood on the site before Portcullis House was built.

'This initial appointment was made following a competition and a fee bid, run by the Department of the Environment but the subsequent extension of the architect's work for the lifetime of the project, at a total fee of £13.1M in outturn prices was not.'

The report also highlights the fact that professional fees for the whole project were 52% higher than forecast and totalled £40M.

This contributed to an increase in overall project costs, which by completion had risen to £179M, in 1992 prices, around £28M over budget.

Lax interpretation of European tendering rules on the cladding contract also cost the House of Commons £10M in legal costs and an out of court payment to cladding contractor Harmon which successfully sued for a breach of procurement regulations.

INFOPLUS For a full copy of the report go to www. nao. gov. uk

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