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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Dome cost continues to spiral
The Millennium Dome in Greenwich, London
The Dome is still costing thousands each month
The cost of maintaining the now-defunct Millennium Dome is on the rise, the government has confirmed.

Latest figures estimate the cost of maintaining the empty construction in Greenwich, south London, was 287,000 in February.

That is up by 15% compared with the previous month when running costs were at just over 250,000.

Lord Falconer at the Millennium Dome
Lord Falconer disclosed the latest Dome costs
The figures were disclosed by the Minister responsible for the Dome, Lord Falconer.

The government's handling of the development is under fire from the Conservatives who say 500,000 of public money has been poured into what they have dubbed 'Labour's rotting flagship'.

Growing costs

The Tories are also criticising the government's failure to meet its latest deadline to have sold the Dome by the start of this month.

This latest twist in the long-running Dome saga comes after figures released in April showed that 28.4m was spent on the Dome's maintenance in the year after it was closed.

The money included decommissioning, maintenance and the winding up of Dome organisers, New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC).

The National Audit Office (NAO) report - which disclosed the 28.4m figure - also found that fraud investigations at the attraction were hampered by "poor record keeping" and a "lack of transparency".

It said the Dome was wound up in a professional way but the absence of adequate records hindered a review of contracts and disposal of the Dome's contents.

Arrests

Investigations by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) into fraud allegations by suppliers and those working for the Dome had led to arrests being made in two cases, said the report.

Three cases were referred to police but later dropped, other cases are being investigated by officers and 13 cases were not pursued by NMEC.

The NAO said PwC had difficulty finding the relevant paperwork and "in the absence of such documentation they could not always establish whether there had been compliance with laid down procedures nor properly assess fraud risk".

The PwC team had also found the systems in place "did not readily provide senior management with information to enable them to monitor contract spend".

Missing tender details

The report went on: "There was often a lack of transparency in contracting suppliers, allied to poor record-keeping in general."

There were 129 suppliers who had rendered invoices totalling 50,000 or more for whom no contract or tender details were found.

Disposing of the Dome's assets had been "complicated by the absence of a detailed record of the company's assets, which added to the cost of the disposal exercise".

NAO head Sir John Bourn said the winding up of the NMEC's affairs was handled in a professional way and had proved "extremely challenging".

Spending break-down

The 28.4m spent on the Dome in the year 2001 was made up of 12.8m for continuing to run NMEC, 12.4m for decommissioning and 3.2m for maintaining and servicing the Dome.

The whole project, originally thought to have cost 758m, was costed in December 2001 at 789m, the NAO said.

NMEC income was forecast at 359m in May 1997 - the attraction actually made 189m.

In all, NMEC received 4.5m from its sale of assets, said the report.

The Commons Public Accounts Select Committee is to investigate the complaints raised in the report.

The government will not give its response to the report until May, during the Public Accounts Committee's inquiry.

See also:

01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Government's Dome handling attacked
18 Dec 01 | UK Politics
The Dome - first line to last rites
12 Nov 01 | UK
Dome running costs 'soar'
03 Nov 01 | UK
Duke drops Dome bid
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