Revealed: cost of parliament tower’s botched procurement

Parliamentary authorities expect to spend nearly £2m on procuring a contractor to repair the Palace of Westminster’s tallest structure, the Victoria Tower, after botching the first tender.

Construction News revealed in April that the tender for the £95m job had to be re-run after errors were made in documents used in the first round.

Under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, CN has now found out that the re-run process has an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £600,000 plus VAT.

The first, scrapped, round of procurement cost £1m plus VAT.

The combined total of both rounds plus VAT currently stands at £1.9m.

Work is needed to repair the Victoria Tower’s crumbling masonry, windows, cast-iron roof, rainwater drainage and flagpole, and a contract was meant to be awarded by the end of 2023 with work completed by 2030.

A source told CN in April that firms in the running for the job were furious that the process had been scrapped after spending considerable time and resources on their bids.

The House of Lords refused to say how many firms submitted bids during the first round, claiming that if it did, it would prejudice its commercial interests and damage its ability to make the most effective use of public money.

“We consider that disclosing the number of tenders or requests to participate received in the original procurement process at this time would be likely to negatively impact on the competitive nature of the re-tender process, as businesses in the market are likely to take into account the number of competitors when deciding whether to compete in a tender process,” an FoI officer said.

They added that this “would be likely to prejudice the House of Lords’ ability to make the most effective use of public funds”.

The second round of tendering is set to open in the coming weeks.

The 164-year-old Victoria Tower’s stonework is deteriorating, with parliamentary authorities concerned about the risk of falling masonry on those working in and visiting the Palace of Westminster.

They warned in 2022 that exposure to cold weather and storm conditions was weakening the 99-metre-tall structure.

The numbers supplied for the cost of the procurement do not include other costs incurred due to the tender error, such as the need to hire crash decking and other temporary measures for longer, or fixing problems arising due to further weakening of the structure.

Stuart Green, professor of construction management at the University of Reading, said: “The Victoria Tower case is indicative of a broader failure in public sector procurement.

“Everyone bemoans the construction sector’s supposed poor productivity, yet the reality is that many such problems can be traced back to failings in procurement.”

He added: “The bigger picture is that public sector clients long since outsourced most of their expertise in procurement to the private sector. In so doing, they’ve become almost entirely reliant on external consultants. One of the things they’ve lost is the capacity to learn.”

A UK Parliament spokesperson said: “The Victoria Tower, part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, is a Grade I-listed structure in need of repairs to fix deteriorating stonework.  

“Preparatory work is scheduled to begin this summer, and a delay relating to the procurement process means main work is now expected to start in 2025. Ahead of work starting, a range of measures remain in place to ensure the safety of visitors and people who work in parliament.”

The job sits outside the wider parliamentary Restoration and Renewal programme, which has itself been hit by repeated delays.

In 2022, MPs scrapped previously agreed plans for the Houses of Parliament’s refurbishment and have yet to commit to a new programme to fix the crumbling building.

The Public Accounts Committee warned last year that there was an increasing risk that the historic buildings would be destroyed by a “catastrophic incident” before restoration work began.

CN also revealed earlier this year that the chief executives of the two client-side bodies running the programme to repair the Palace of Westminster decided to leave the project within months of each other.

David Goldstone, chief executive of the UK Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, submitted his resignation at the end of March, although a leaving date has not been set.

Meanwhile, Patsy Richards, managing director/chief executive of the R&R Client Team, announced her retirement.

A prior-information notice for £1.5bn of safety upkeep works was published earlier this week.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top