£11 million contract to rebuild Lyric Theatre flawed says Committee

Synopsis: An Assembly report, published today by the Public Accounts Committee, has found that the way the £11 million contract to rebuild the Lyric Theatre was awarded was significantly flawed and failed to adhere to principles of good practice.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 13 November 2013

Reference: PAC 02/13/14

An Assembly report, published today by the Public Accounts Committee, has found that the way the £11 million contract to rebuild the Lyric Theatre was awarded was significantly flawed and failed to adhere to principles of good practice.

The Committee's report criticises the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), the Arts Council and the Government's own Central Procurement Directorate (CPD) process which left the Committee with a strong impression that the outcome had been rigged and manipulated.

The Committee found that a number of unexplained adjustments were made to the tender submissions, which resulted in the most expensive tender being successful. Importantly, the Report showed that the £413,000 of adjustments stripped from the tender was later paid in full, but DCAL was unable to provide an explanation for this.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Michaela Boyle MLA said: "The quality of the rebuilt Lyric Theatre is undisputed; we recognise that it is a highly impressive theatre and that it has deservedly won a number of prestigious awards. However, the end does not justify the means. My Committee has found that there were significant departures from good practice in the award of this £11 million contract, and this is completely unacceptable.

"It beggars belief that CPD--the organisation responsible for providing advice on the tender--did not attend the evaluation meeting for the award of this £11 million contract.

"DCAL, the Arts Council and CPD were unable to provide any assurance that the contract had been awarded in a fair and equitable manner. We believe they did not discharge their duty properly, and they failed to ensure the proper use of public funds.

"We recognise that investing in culture, arts and leisure products produces benefits for the whole community. However, this must be accompanied by ensuring that projects adhere to proper procedures and value for money considerations.

"DCAL currently has a target to deliver £158 million capital investment, but its performance to date is simply unacceptable. Given the limited resources the Executive finds itself with in these testing economic times, lessons must be learned from this report if the Department, and the wider public sector, is to prevent similar mistakes recurring in its ongoing and future projects."

ENDS

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