Former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Dame Margaret Hodge, will lead a review into the £185m Garden Bridge project after saying that questions remain over its procurement.
The review, announced by London mayor Sadiq Khan, promises to delve into the murky origins of the controversial project.
An artist's impression of the so-far unbuilt bridge
The mayor’s office said the review ‘will look in detail at whether value for money has been achieved from the taxpayers’ contribution to the project, and investigate the work of Transport for London, the Greater London Authority, and other relevant authorities around the Garden Bridge going back to when the project was first proposed’.
The review will look in detail at the procurement process around the project, and ‘whether required standards have been met around transparency and openness going back to the beginning of the project’.
Dame Margaret, Labour MP for Barking, said ‘there are clearly questions that remain unanswered around issues like procurement’.
Mr Khan said: ‘I’m clear that since the beginning of the project there hasn’t been the necessary standard of transparency and openness around the Garden Bridge. Nearly £40m of public money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge project, and Londoners deserve far more information about the decisions that have been made around how their money is being spent.’
He added: ‘I am absolutely clear that no new London taxpayers’ funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge.’
Soon after his election in May, Mr Khan gave his support to the controversial bridge but demanded more accessibility and transparency.
Later that month he said it would cost taxpayers more than twice as much to cancel the controversial bridge as it would to complete it. He revealed that of the £60m total of public money pledged, £37.7m has already been spent by the Garden Bridge Trust (GBT).
Sunk costs fallacy
However, Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell said the bridge should be scrapped if the inquiry identifies wasteful spending or a failure to follow procurement rules.
She told Transport Network: ‘Sunk costs are not a reason to go ahead as Treasury rules make clear. If the transport case does not stack up, it should be scrapped.
She said she welcomed the appointment of Dame Margaret. ‘She’s got a very inquiring mind and I’m sure she will run a very tough inquiry,’ she said.
Kate Hoey, Labour MP for the riverside constituency of Vauxhall, who previously wrote to the National Audit Office (NAO) to request a full review of the project, told Transport Network: ‘This is a sensible move by the mayor. The local community have been calling for this for sometime. The GBT has been the most secretive body I have dealt with and we need the facts about where £40m of public money has gone with nothing to show for it.’