THE FINAL COST of the controversial Cardiff Bay Barrage project is now estimated to be £220M, nearly 15% over budget, according to a report by the Auditor General for Wales.
Outstanding claims of nearly £3M will have to be settled before the final cost can be established, the report says. It pinpoints the main Barrage structure as the area where costs soared most, from an estimated £134M in 1995 to an actual £151.8M by March this year.
The report slams cost-cutting efforts by the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, which included delaying the installation of the third set of lock gates.
Eventually they had to be installed in tidal conditions, which increased costs by £700,000 more than the original savings.
It also criticises the Corporation for taking risks with contractual provisions for inflation and contingencies, which were reduced at an early stage to keep within the limits set by the Welsh Office.
But the Auditor General concludes: 'It is to the Corporation's credit that the structure of the Barrage was substantially complete by November 1999.'
The Auditor General commends the lengthy pre-contract discussions with Balfour BeattyCostain, which, the report states, meant there were no unresolved issues when contracts were signed.
The appointment of Bechtel as project manager also meets with the Auditor General's approval. He describes it as a fire prevention rather than a fire fighting policy. A team approach, 'together with the quality of the individuals who worked on the project' was a major factor in the project's success.
Around £8M of dredging and landscaping work still remains to be completed, and £2M is earmarked for surveying properties in the bay area for damage.
Responsibility for completion passed to the new Harbour Authority when the Development Corporation was wound up at the end of March.