There is no evidence that Transport for London’s (TfL) procurement for the Garden Bridge scheme in London will not provide value for money, an audit has concluded.
However, the internal investigation did say that TfL’s role in the project was unclear from the outset and that “this was a strong factor in there not being an agreed procurement strategy in place”.
It also noted that some documentation supporting the evaluation of the bidders had been disposed of during a TfL office move.
Thomas Heatherwick Studio was chosen as design advisor for the Temple to South Bank footbridge project, and Arup was chosen as lead consultant for the scheme in 2013.
All management responsibility was transferred to the Garden Bridge Trust this year.
The audit aimed to provide assurance that the procurements of design and development services for the project were in accordance with procurement regulations and procedures and were open, fair and transparent.
The audit noted that in both procurements there were some instances where TfL policy and procedure were not fully complied with. However, it concluded that it had not indentified any evidence that the final recommendations did not provide value for money from winning bidders.
In June, leader of the London Assembly Liberal Democrat Group Caroline Pidgeon wrote to the Commissioner of Transport for London raising concerns about the procurement of the design services.
Pidgeon had also questioned London Mayor Boris Johnson at a Mayor’s question time meeting in March about the evaluation process for the different bidders. Johnson said he was totally satisfied that the process was not prejudiced in any way.
Following the investigation’s conclusions, Pidgeon said that that audit had not been thorough and forensic.
“TfL’s claim that the audit has not found any evidence that value for money was not provided is nonsensical when vital documents could not be examined.
“TfL should be providing evidence that value for money was actually delivered. That test has not been met by this audit.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “An extensive and thorough review of the procurement has been undertaken by a separate audit team and this has concluded that the procurement of designers for the Garden Bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders and there is no evidence the process did not provide value for money.
“As part of this thorough review, the audit has identified that some supporting documents, in the form of handwritten notes from interviews with bidders were disposed of earlier this year as part of an office move - two years after the interviews were carried out and before the audit was requested. However, all scores from the evaluation process that was undertaken were properly recorded and filed appropriately in line with TfL procedures. The audit confirms that the "tender evaluation was carried out in accordance with TfL procedures.
“The fact these handwritten notes could not be found as part of the recent audit has absolutely no bearing on the findings of the audit.”