09 August 2001 | Liam O'Brien
The Welsh Assembly has defended its procurement practices for the construction of the new assembly building after damning criticism by the Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP), which designed the building.
Following its sacking by Edwina Hart, the assembly's finance minister, RRP claimed that it was being made a scapegoat for a "highly inflexible, adversarial and divisive procurement process".
The company blamed the ballooning costs of the building - up from an original budget of £13.8 million to £24 million, according to the Welsh Assembly - on the discouragement of competitive bidding resulting in inflated prices from local contractors and "catastrophic" management of the project.
However, Edwina Hart told SM that the Welsh Assembly's procurement department acted professionally and responsibly and was not prepared to see costs "spiral out of control".
She said that assembly's additions to the project amounted to no more than £1.2 million, including the use of Welsh slate which added £550,000 to the new building's cost.
"The great majority of the increase is due to flawed estimating on the part of RRP", she added, "with substantial underestimates of both the scope and specification of works reflected in that plan."
The sacking of the building's designers has forced the Welsh Assembly to re-tender the design of the building "shortly". Despite having to re-advertise the contract and make a new appointment, Hart insisted the building will open on schedule by May 2003.