Procurement News: London’s controversial Garden Bridge project


London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that the procurement of the controversial Garden Bridge project is to be examined.

The former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Dame Margaret Hodge, will lead a review into the £185m Garden Bridge project after stating that questions remain over its procurement.

A proposed pedestrian bridge over the River Thames, the Garden Bridge was conceived by the actress Joanna Lumley as a memorial to Princess Diana. However, the project has come under fire for a number of reasons including the apparent privatisation of public space, value for money and the transparency of the procurement process overseen by former London Mayor and current Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.


Value for Money?

The review will take a thorough look at whether taxpayers’ contribution to the project can be considered value for money. A total of £60 million of public money was pledged by Transport for London, a major chunk of the £185 million price of the project.

So far £37.7 million has been spent and, whilst there have been calls for the project to be cancelled, it may cost taxpayers twice as much to abandon the project rather than complete it.

If the project were to be scrapped now, this amount would be lost in full. If built, however, the Bridge’s Trust would repay a £20 million loan to Transport for London, plus £22 million in tax, meaning taxpayers would have paid only £18 million towards the project.


Transparency and Openness

The procurement process for the project is also under review, there are questions over whether or not the standards around transparency and openness were met from the start of the process onwards.

Concerns have been raised that bias was shown in the selection process when choosing a designer for the project.

Procurement expert Professor Christopher Bovis, who has advised the UK government and the European Commission on fair process compliance, said: “The procurement process of the Garden Bridge is littered with procedural irregularities. It is not one of the best examples of a procurement process in the UK.”


White Elephant?

Mr Khan explained that he felt Londoners deserved far more information about decision-making involving public funds and made it clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the project.

Following his election, Mr Khan had stressed his support for the controversial project and commitment to completing it, but he has been critical of the procurement process. He had previously described the project as ‘another of Boris Johnson’s white elephants’ as he ran for Mayor of London, using it as an example of the previous Mayor’s wasteful spending of public money.


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