Friday 7 May 2004

And about time too

The head of the Inquiry into the parliament building fiasco has "fired a broadside"
Civil servants have been accused of misleading MSPs over the cost of the new parliament building by the head of the Holyrood Inquiry.

Lord Fraser said they concealed higher cost estimates when control of the project transferred to MSPs in 1999.

It looks as though the project might have been stopped by MSPs if they had been properly informed by the civil service:

Lord Fraser said: "It looks rather as though those who were involved in this were determined to keep the figure down as low as possible even to the point of concealing it from the parliament in the hope that the project would go ahead.

It was a very narrow vote on this in the Scottish Parliament in the middle of 1999.

Would it not have been appropriate to put the secretary of state in the position that he could tell parliament that the figure he had in front of him of what it was going to cost was £89m?"

There's more in this report:
It was an unprecedented outburst by the inquiry chief and suggests he believes civil servants influenced the democratic process by withholding vital information from MSPs.

The inquiry has also heard how other senior figures, including Sir Muir Russell, the former permanent secretary at the Scottish Executive, Barbara Doig, the former project sponsor, and Paul Grice, the current chief executive of the parliament, were involved in the decision not to tell ministers of the cost consultants’ warnings.

Each of them can now expect to be singled out for criticism when Lord Fraser’s report is published in the autumn.

Fair enough. But there needs to be far more than mere "criticism". If found to responsible, these people should be thrown out of their jobs and made to compensate their employers - the Scottish taxpayers. Without that the whole inquiry will have been just another waste of public money.