Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has announced a review of the £185M Thames Garden Bridge project.
The review will be led by Dame Margaret Hodge, the former chair of government-spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee. It will examine whether the project offers taxpayers value for money and investigate the work of Transport for London (TfL), the Greater London Authority (GLA) and other bodies around the project since it was first proposed.
In particular, the review will examine the procurement processes in detail, looking at the issue in terms of transparency and openness. It will work by assessing the findings of previous reviews, interviewing current and former staff involved in the project and any other investigations.
Previous reviews include an internal audit by TfL of the two procurement exercises that had taken place in 2013 including Arup’s contract for the technical design. The GLA Oversight Committee also carried out an investigation into the Garden Bridge design procurement.
The final report will set out any lessons that should be learnt in order to improve future projects. The review will cost £25,000.
“I’m clear that since the beginning of the project there hasn’t been the necessary standard of transparency and openness around the Garden Bridge,” said Khan.
“Nearly £40M of public money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge project, and Londoners deserve far more information about the decisions that have been made around how their money is being spent.
“Margaret Hodge is hugely respected for her work scrutinising some of the UK’s largest and most high-profile publicly funded bodies. There’s no better qualified person to get to the bottom of the procurement process around the Garden Bridge, and establish whether Londoners have been getting value for money since the project began.
“I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge, but I’m also determined that the Garden Bridge review helps the project achieve higher standards of accountability and transparency it has so far been lacking.”
Hodge added: “I’m delighted to accept Sadiq’s offer to look in detail at some of the key decisions made so far around the Garden Bridge. It’s not a project that I have previously had an opinion on either for or against, but given the millions of pounds of public money allocated to the project, it is clear that there needs to be far more transparency around how funds are being spent.
“The planned bridge is a major project in an iconic part of London, and there are clearly questions that remain unanswered around issues like procurement.
“From his first day in office, Sadiq has been relentless in his drive to ensure Londoners get value for money, both around the Garden Bridge and other areas of major spending. I look forward to presenting the findings of the review, and assessing the lessons we can learn for other major projects in our city.”
Some £60M of public money has already been pledged for the construction of the bridge, half from TfL and half from the Government. Of the money pledged by TfL, £20M is a loan. Around £37M of this has already been spent.
Last month, the Garden Bridge Trust admitted a shortfall in funding and called for Government to extend its £15M underwriting of the project by a year to September 2017.