Olympic finances lack clarity, says PAC

19 Jul 12
MPs have called for a single, auditable account setting out the full costs of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
By Vivienne Russell | 19 July 2012

MPs have called for a single, auditable account setting out the full costs of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

With a little over a week to go until the Games begin on July 27, the Public Accounts Committee said it had experienced difficulty in ‘pinning down the financial position’ of the Games, particularly the quantification of risk.

A PAC report issued today argued that those costs to government that fell outside of the £9.3bn Public Sector Funding Package of staging the Games should be consolidated into a single account. These costs include the running of Olympic-related legacy programmes and the cost of purchasing the land for the Olympic site.

‘Our concern is that such costs are not drawn together in one place, unlike the costs incurred within the Public Sector Funding Package,’ the PAC said.

‘It is disappointing, therefore, that the Department [of Culture, Media and Sport] does not intend to produce a single auditable account after the Games. In the interests of transparency around an event of huge national interest, we remain of the view that such an analysis should be produced.’

There was also criticism of the way DCMS had engaged with the PAC over the years leading up to the Games. Chair Margaret Hodge said: ‘Legitimate monitoring of implementation has been an unnecessarily frustrating process, characterised by a resistance to giving us clear and consistent information and a readiness to depart from proper ways of conducting public business.’

In a letter sent to DCMS permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens, and published alongside today’s report, Hodge criticised the fact that his comments challenging earlier PAC concerns had appeared in the media before being passed to Parliament.

But Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt hit back at allegations that preparation for the Games had lacked transparency.

London 2012 has arguably been more transparent than any other public sector project. For example we have produced 16 financial updates to Parliament over the last four years. The Olympic Delivery Authority set out public milestones for delivery from the outset against which success could be measured and we have engaged with the committee at every stage over the last seven years,’ he said.

The PAC also took the opportunity to comment on the recent controversy regarding security at the Games. Army personnel have had to be deployed to provide security at Olympic venues after the contractor G4S was unable to supply the promised number of security staff.

Hodge said the ‘chaos’ that has emerged over security was ‘predictable’ and undermined public confidence in those responsible for staging the Games.

She said: ‘In evidence to us before Christmas, all those concerned gave assurances that the contract could be met despite more than doubling the number of guards before the ink was dry on the original contract.

‘No credible explanation has been given for an astonishing twelve-fold hike in management costs, from £10m to £125m, and G4S still has not been able to deliver. Now troops are having to be drafted in. The Home Office needs to get a grip on Locog [the organising committee] and G4S urgently.’

Hunt said there would be no additional costs to the taxpayer as a result of the problems with G4S. ‘Under their contract the company will be subject to penalties for failing to deliver – including against their £57m management fee.’

Hodge said the PAC would be conducting a post-mortem on the security issue in September.


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