Edinburgh trams inquiry latest: Council chiefs ‘deliberately misled’ by TIE

Former council leader Donald Anderson has been challenged over claims that council chiefs were deliberately misled by TIE. Picture by Lesley Martin
Former council leader Donald Anderson has been challenged over claims that council chiefs were deliberately misled by TIE. Picture by Lesley Martin
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THERE were feisty exchanges at the tram inquiry today as former council leader Donald Anderson was challenged over claims he made that arms-length company TIE had deliberately misled council chiefs.

Mr Anderson told the inquiry yesterday that TIE representatives had told councillors and officials that adjudications over disputes with contractor Bilfinger Berger were going in TIE’s favour when that was not the case.

“If you lose adjudications and you present them as being successes, that’s deliberate misinformation,” he said.

But today Douglas Fairlie QC, representing a group of ex-employees of TIE, showed Mr Anderson a series of minutes from meetings where TIE chief executive Richard Jeffrey had reported Bilfinger winning adjudications.

READ MORE: Edinburgh trams inquiry: How did Edinburgh’s trams become a fiasco?

Mr Fairlie said it was reasonable to infer this was not good news.

But Mr Anderson said: “I think it’s difficult to tell from that minute. The point that I would simply make is that key elected members and officers of the council weren’t given access to the adjudication decisions in any detail. What they were given was presentations of interpretations of the adjudication process.

“If elected members had been given copies of the adjudications themselves they could have made up their mind.”

Citing the minute of another meeting where a similar report was given, Mr Fairlie said: “It would not appear Mr Jeffrey was presenting losses as successes.”

But Mr Anderson said: “I don’t agree that you can definitively say that looking at that minute.”

He maintained that TIE had made presented the outcomes more positively than was justified.

And he continued: “What I can tell you is that senior elected members and officers of the council were entitled to get access to the information they needed to make informed decisions about one of the biggest projects, and most controversial projects, in the city’s history. And they weren’t given to access to that information, indeed they were denied and deliberately denied access to that information by officials on TIE.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh trams inquiry: ‘Secrecy’ hampered project progress

He said even the council’s chief executive did not get access to the detailed information in the adjudication decisions.

“I think that leads me to believe very very firmly there was a deliberate campaign on the part of TIE to deny those officials and those elected members who were taking big decisions on this issue, the information they required in order to take those decisions.”

At the end of his evidence, Mr Anderson, who left the council in 2007 and later worked as a communications consultant to Bilfinger, attempted to make a general comment on the project to the inquiry before he was cut short by Lord Hardie.

Mr Anderson said: “I know a lot of the key protagonists pretty well. They are people who care passionately and want the best for the city.

“I think they made mistakes and took decisions not in the best interests of progressing the project bu I think there is a dofference between people who made mistakes in good faith....”

Lord Hardie interrupted to say: “I think that’s ultimately a matter for me. I do appreciate the diffeence bewteen people making mistakes and people misleading other people. I will take into account all the evidence and form a view of what I think of the situation.”

Later, Edinburgh Tory group leader Iain Whyte told the inquiry he had had a briefing with Mr Jeffrey when he asked about dispute adjudications

“When I probed that I was told they were winning but not winning outright. If the claim by the contractor was for £100,000 and TIE disputed that and said there should be no additional cost and the adjudication came in at £20,000 or £30,000 TIE would count that as a win because they had not had to pay out £100,000.”