23 September 2004 | David Arminas
A major parliamentary and industry pressure group is set to recommend that Gateway reviews, the government's main progress reports for major public-sector contracts, should be published.
In a damning inquiry report last week, Lord Fraser criticised senior civil servants, saying "delays, poor management and lack of leadership" drove the price tag for Holyrood to £431 million, ten times the initial 1997 estimate, and opened three years late.
A major contributory factor to this failure was the use of "construction management", a project procurement technique in which a client tenders independent packets of work so construction can begin before the overall project is fully designed.
However, in this scenario, final costs can be elusive and the client carries almost all of the risk. The Holyrood project had more than 60 of these packets of work.
Richard Biggs, a senior policy adviser with the CIC, a forum for the professional bodies, research organisations and specialist associations, told SM: "If it had been built as a partnering project, there would have been complete openness about these issues and if a problem occurred it would have been everybody to the pumps."
A spokesperson for the Construction Confederation, the umbrella body for seven of the major construction organisations, said construction management is still used.
"But we steer clients to an industry standard contract from the Joint Contracts Tribunal and warn that deviations from it can shift risk onto themselves."