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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Fraser delivers Holyrood verdict
Lord Fraser
Lord Fraser said ministers must have more control
Tory peer Lord Fraser said there was no single "villain of the piece" when it came to the problems which plagued the building of the Scottish Parliament.

Announcing his findings, the inquiry head said it still astonished him that ministers were kept in the dark over cost increases.

He cleared the late First Minister Donald Dewar of misleading MSPs.

However, he named Sir Muir Russell, former head of the Scottish civil service, as a man with responsibility.

He said: "Clearly the top man was Sir Muir Russell - there was a number of very sharp criticisms made of him in the Scottish Parliament, and I respectfully adopt their recommendations."

Sir Muir insisted: "I repudiate utterly any suggestion that I was responsible for misleading Donald Dewar."

 Click here to watch Lord Fraser's summary of his report.

In his report, Lord Fraser said that Mr Dewar relied on inaccurate information from civil servants.

He added that the original 40m figure for the construction of the building was never "going to be sufficient". It ended up hugely over budget and was years late.

The project went ahead under a process of construction management - which meant that there was no final cap on costs.

Donald Dewar
Donald Dewar died before the project was completed
On the positive side, Lord Fraser told the gathered media: "The building meets the vision that Donald Dewar had for it, I hope the excellence of parliament activity will reflect the parliament's structure."

Witnesses revealed in the inquiry that politicians were impatient, the design was uncertain and civil servants failed to control contractors.

The project suffered from the death of the man who had been at the heart of the Holyrood project, Mr Dewar.

Its key architect, Enric Miralles, also died and the project was dogged by rumours of disagreement between the Spanish design company EMBT and their Edinburgh-based partners RMJM.

In his report, Lord Fraser said: "Tempting as it is to lay all the blame at the door of a deceased wayward Spanish architectural genius, his stylised fashion of working and the strained relationship between his widow and RMJM in Edinburgh, the analysis of the auditor general is unimpeachable.

'Make recommendations'

"Costs rose because the client (first the secretary of state and latterly the parliament) wanted increases and changes or at least approved of them in one manifestation or another."

Lord Fraser said there was "no evidence whatsoever" to suggest Mr Dewar deliberately or knowingly misled MSPs.

But he said he still did not understand why Mr Dewar wanted to press ahead with the parliament.

Holyrood chamber
The parliament is now open for business
Lord Fraser said: "I have some surprise that he did not leave it to the parliament both on location and what was included."

The politician said that he did not believe it was for him to sack people. "I don't have that responsibility," he said.

"What I was asked to do was make recommendations, not write letters of dismissal.

"I trust those responsible, political leadership and civil servants, that they will read very carefully what I have identified as significant.

"I simply don't understand why if you get independent cost consultants who give you a risk analysis you then ignore that advice," said Lord Fraser.

Lord Fraser said that Mr Dewar had relied on cost figures given to him by senior civil servants.

REPORT CONCLUSIONS
Whenever there was a conflict between quality and cost, quality was preferred
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"As it turned out, he should not have done so but he did not conceal figures that he knew were a better assessment.

"In the event he did not resign and in my view was correct not to have done so," said Lord Fraser

But the 267-page report was fiercely critical of other aspects of the saga in which the building came to be completed three years late and cost 431m.

Lord Fraser said: "Whenever there was a conflict between quality and cost, quality was preferred.

"Whenever there was a conflict between early completion and cost, completion was preferred without in fact any significant acceleration being achieved."

He said that in future projects, ministers must have more control and must be properly briefed by civil servants.

But he later added that he would not draw a line under his conclusions until he had seen the BBC documentary on the project, The Gathering Place.

BBC Scotland had refused to hand over untransmitted footage as a matter of policy and a spokesman said it did not accept the assertion that the process could not be completed without access to the tapes.

In his report, Lord Fraser made 10 recommendations, which included:

  • Where a competition is held for the selection of a designer, consultant or contractor for a public building project, there should be a full and transparent record of all aspects of the competition from start to conclusion.

  • Where the best design solution is seen to be one of an internationally renowned "signature" architect linking with a Scottish-based practice, he recommended a full and rigorous evaluation should be undertaken to confirm a compatibility of working cultures and practices.

  • Construction management as a procurement route should be used sparingly for any public building project as all risk lies with the client and ultimately the taxpayer.

  • No-one should be put in charge of any public project without a demonstrable appreciation of what is required under EU procurement rules.

  • Where independent professional advisers have been retained, their views should not be filtered by the civil service, but should be put to ministers.

  • Where civil servants are engaged on public projects, governance should be clear.

  • He recommend that Section 21 of the Scotland Act 1998 should be amended to give the Scottish Parliament's Corporate Body wider powers of delegation than exist at present.

  • He recommended that the considerations of the security and safety of public buildings should not be regarded as late "add ons" to the design but primary integral parts of the user brief and the assessment of any proposed design.

  • He commended the parliament for the fact changes had been made to the oral questioning of the presiding officer. He said if that change had not been made since embarking on the inquiry, he would have wanted to recommend the change.

  • Where an architect, consultant or other contractor is comparably employed, full contracts, guarantees and bonds should be secured at the outset to prevent risks to the public purse emerging.

MSPs have agreed to debate the results of the Fraser inquiry in an extended session next Wednesday.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Design changes demanded by MSPs added to the cost"



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