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Accountability in the Commissioning of Public Funded Projects

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The problems highlighted from different quarters on the Holyrood Project are not identical in every report, but all can be traced to what Lord Fraser has remarked as “ the biggest single error” in his Inquiry Report – that of using a Construction Management method. (White & Sidhu, p19) According to the Auditor General report of 2004 the main cause of delay to the Project since Sep 2000 was the production of detailed design variations and the late supply of information during the construction process whereas the cost escalation has been attributed to design development and delay in the construction process.

The Holyrood Inquiry has also revealed that there was an overall tendency to prefer quality and aesthetics over cost. priority, which was a political decision blind to realities. Hence, the hasty choice of construction management route -a short cut resorted to meet the deadline compulsions dictated by politicians, turned out to be the cause of all the reported problems like lack of coordination, the slow pace of design output, ill-defined priorities, inability to lie within the budgetary allocation.

Even then, the inability of design flow to keep pace with the progress in the construction of the building as dictated by an unrealistic time-table can be considered as the crucial problem encountered in this Project. Since the complexity of the constantly evolving design flow could not keep pace with the fast-track construction management work activities, with every incremental resultant slippage in time, there was a net cascading effect, leading to even further cost escalations. There never was a true picture of the cost of the project right from its very outset, and conscious monitoring of cost was absent, unlike that of quality or aesthetics and fixity of deadline.

This situation is best illustrated in the words of Benedetta Tagliabue, the widow of the late architect Enric Miralles, who said in the public gallery during a marathon debate on the Project, on 22 Sep 2004, “ I don’ t think the project went wrong. I think there was a misunderstanding of the real price of it at the very beginning” .

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