02 July 2004
An unprecedented row has broken out between the Scottish Parliament's chief executive, Paul Grice, and auditor general Bob Black over a damning report which is highly critical of the management of the troubled Holyrood project.
Grice has claimed that misunderstandings, mistakes and omissions call into question some of the findings in the report, which blames a clear lack of direction and leadership for leading to escalating costs and serious delays.
Black said that the project management team, led by Grice as the accountable officer, failed to exercise proper controls and did not fully appreciate the risks of the construction management method of procurement adopted by the former Scottish Office. The risk management for the project 'was not good practice', Black reported.
In a statement to the Parliament's audit committee this week, he said: 'The organisation of the Holyrood project did not provide the necessary clear direction and leadership.'
Grice retorted that 'in spite of our best efforts we have been unable to reach agreement with Audit Scotland on the facts in the limited time available'.
He believed significant redrafting would have been required to satisfy his concerns.
However, the offer had been rejected by Black, who went ahead in publishing the report this week, a timetable Grice described as 'unreasonable and unrealistic'. Grice set out more than 50 examples that he claims were wrong or misleading.
The cost of the Holyrood project stood at £195m about four years ago, when Black first reported on cost rises. Since then it has soared to £431m.
According to Black it has become one of the most expensive public buildings in Britain, at £8,922 per square metre. This compares with £8,600 for Portcullis House and £6,600 for phase one of the new British Library. Due to be opened by the Queen in October, the building is more than 20 months behind schedule.
Black said disruptions had added £86m while a further £80m had to be spent on 10,000 design changes. While stating that the finished building would undoubtedly be of a high standard, he added: 'The same quality could have been achieved for less if the whole design and construction process had been better executed.'