Questions raised over trams deal selection process

Concerns have been raised about the way major contracts are signed by the city council after details emerged of the £2.8 million spent on the firm brought in to run Edinburgh’s tram project.

By MICHAEL BLACKLEY City Council Reporter
Monday, 17th October 2011, 1:15 pm

The Evening News last week revealed the cost of the deal – which amounts to nearly £8000 a day – to bring in transport consultants Turner & Townsend (T&T) as “project managers” for the scheme.

Councillors say that they have not been given enough detail to convince them that the contract that was signed is the best possible value for money.

T&T, which has managed similar projects in Croydon, Dublin and Nottingham, is replacing discredited firm TIE as the main manager of the project, alongside the council and Transport Scotland.

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The council did not hold a full procurement exercise and just selected T&T from a UK Government shortlist of approved contractors.

The first tram is due to arrive at the Gogar depot today, after a 900-mile journey from Spain.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group on the council, said: “What the voluntary sector will think when they look at this is that we went through the care and support tender, then the homeless tender, then we had this commissioning strategy about putting things out to tender and then we just go out and appoint one contractor.

“Whether it is on an approved list or not, how do we know it is best value if we have nothing to compare it against? How do we know all this money we are spending is justified?”

Councillors had been asked to approve giving council chief executive Sue Bruce “delegated authority” to appoint T&T but had not been told what the cost of the appointment would be, or how they would be appointed.

Cllr Hinds said: “I am concerned that we were told that the management team had agreed to employ them as consultants but it would cost a small amount, and we certainly did not realise it was the amount they are now talking about.

“We have to be concerned that the administration have agreed to sign a contract for any amount without scrutiny.”

The council has defended the process. Although it did not carry out a full public procurement exercise where bids were invited from firms, it selected the company from the UK Government’s “procurement service framework”, a list of firms that have already been vetted.

Cllr Jeremy Balfour, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: “I would presume that the council solicitor knows the laws and would do this in an appropriate way. It would be worth getting assurance that the right procedures have been followed so that people would have confidence in the system.”

It has also been reported that TIE spent more than £35,000 on promotional videos lasting just five minutes which have had to be redone because they showed trams travelling to Leith.

A council spokesman said: “The council has sought to deliver best value in a procurement compliant manner, at the same time as ensuring no delay to the delivery of the project.”

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