City schools being built on the cheap as Council urged to reconsider process

COUNCIL bosses have been urged to 'reconsider' how they build schools and infrastructure on the back of a string of delays to the new Boroughmuir High.

Monday, 17th October 2016, 6:59 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:23 pm
New Boroughmuir High School under construction. Picture; Ian Georgeson

We told last week how the secondary will now open a year later than expected – after its completion date was pushed back for the fourth time.

Records show construction firm OHMG was given the contract to build the £35 million replacement campus in 2014 – because they were the cheapest out of five bidders.

The Northern Irish company scored second last for quality in the council’s wide-ranging contract assessment, but first for price.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Because a weighting of 80 per cent was put on price, OHMG eventually won the contract ahead of other firms with better quality ratings.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said “bigger questions” were raised by the saga, adding: “OHMG has been fairly evasive about why there is a delay of a whole year and few people I speak to think that unexpected ground conditions or high winds are credible as excuses.”

Mr Corbett also said he thought the contractor might have “bitten off more than they can chew.”

He added: “So the council as a whole needs to consider whether its selection process for massive contracts like this needs tightened up.

“OHMG was awarded this contract, despite no track record of building schools in Scotland and despite not scoring well for quality in the contract assessment. A different weighting for quality may have seen another contractor take on the job.

“Would that have made a difference? I can’t tell. But when I raised these concerns back in August 2014, they were not really taken that seriously.

“So there is definitely a need to look again at the decision-making process and the subsequent management of the contract.”

He added: “For the school community the priority is getting the building finished and 100 per cent fit for use. That is what the contractor OHMG needs to be focusing on.”

It is understood the council rates the quality of potential contractors using a number of different criteria – including their logistics strategy, ability to identify risks, health and safety and quality control.

Concerns around the weighting put on price come after 17 city schools were forced to close earlier this year after faults were found with their construction.

A council spokesman said: “All the prospective bidders for the new Boroughmuir High School contract had to undertake a robust tendering process which was subject to intense scrutiny.

“We share the frustration of the school community about this delay, however when the building opens next August pupils will find a fantastic new teaching and learning environment to continue the school’s first-class academic track record.”

OHMG declined to comment.