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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Holyrood site failure 'gigantic'
Picture courtesy of Scottish Parliament
The inquiry heard sweeping criticism of the project's handling
The handling of the Scottish Parliament building project has been heavily criticised at the inquiry into its rising cost.

John Campbell, the counsel to Lord Fraser's inquiry, said the scheme suffered a management failure of "gigantic proportions".

Civil servants, politicians and the construction managers Bovis were among those he blamed.

Mr Campbell's attack came in his summing-up speech to Lord Fraser.

He blamed nearly every group involved in the project.

The QC said the civil servants were not trained, did not let the construction team do their job and failed to discipline the contractors working on site.

The Scottish Parliament building project exemplifies a failure of procurement management of gigantic proportions.,
John Campbell QC

Mr Campbell described the timetable as "unrealistic", highlighted a lack of certainty about the final design and complained that there was "overall a lack of leadership".

He said the decision to opt for the construction management contract was "dictated almost entirely by the political desire to achieve the earliest possible construction and occupation of the building".

The leading counsel insisted the "multi-headed" nature of the client was bound to create a "confusing, perhaps even a chaotic situation".

Mr Campbell also questioned the decision to make civil servant Barbara Doig the project sponsor during the early years of the scheme.

He told Lord Fraser: "One may well ask why a person with her professional background was placed in charge.

'Lack of experience'

"If there is any failure of management revealed by the answer to that question I would submit that it is not her failure, but arguably a failure of those who put her there."

Mr Campbell said a 50m budget was publicly announced in January 1998.

He noted that Mrs Doig was still reporting the figure to the late Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar in January 1999 - despite warnings from cost consultants that the price had increased.

Mr Campbell questioned, too, the decision to appoint Sarah Davidson as project director later in process because - Mr Campbell said - she lacked construction experience.

The QC argued: "In my respectful submission, the Scottish Parliament building project exemplifies a failure of procurement management of gigantic proportions, and at almost every level of official and professional involvement."

Enric Miralles
Enric Miralles was the architect for the project
But QC for the Scottish Executive, Laura Dunlop, responded after Mr Campbell launched his attack.

She told Lord Fraser it was impossible to judge where the project would be now, if a political decision had not been taken to start it in 1997.

She conceded that the Scottish Executive broke European Union rules in the way it recruited the design team.

The QC said the selection panel should have examined the cost bids from all five finalists in the design competition in June 1998 before choosing the EMBT/RMJM partnership led by the late Catalan architect Enric Miralles.

However, she said it was "unlikely" that this would have changed the decision of the panel who favoured EMBT/RMJM.

Ms Dunlop also accepted that that the process for the appointment of Bovis as construction managers was "not well conducted".

The inquiry had heard that Bovis was returned to the bidding process by Mrs Doig in late 1998 even though an expert panel led by construction manager Bill Armstrong had rejected the firm on cost grounds.

She said Mrs Doig was entitled to make that decision and pointed out that the Scottish Office was not obliged to accept the lowest tender but rather the one that offered the best value.

Mrs Doig's solicitor, David Stewart, denied that she was at the centre of "some Machiavellian plot" to hide the true cost of the building and had acted properly given the information she had to hand.

Lord Fraser has set aside two days for summing-up at the inquiry before publication of his findings in September.

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