HS2

07.12.18

London mayor criticised after appointing former auditor and advisor to investigate Crossrail delays

Sadiq Khan has come under fire over a Crossrail probe after he appointed a former auditor and adviser for the Elizabeth Line project to investigate the delays and spiralling costs.

Conservative MP and former minister Greg Hands has written to the National Audit Office, claiming the London mayor has “handpicked” the Crossrail auditors and that one of his appointments, KPMG, has a “vested investment in downplaying the current difficulties” faced by the project.

This is the latest controversy surrounding the £15.4bn project and the mayor in recent weeks, which came to a head this week when Sir Terry Morgan resigned as chairman of Crossrail and HS2 and claimed he was “in absolutely no doubt” that Khan knew about the nine-month delay before he disclosed the information to the public.

Khan has been accused by the London Assembly Transport Committee of “deliberately misleading” the public and committee about the delays, and has this week been summoned to appear at a hearing to explain what he knew and when.

Morgan and the committee claim Khan was informed of the delay to the project in July, but Khan insists he was only aware of budget and “schedule pressures” and said he was made aware of the postponement when the news was publicly announced.

KPMG was the independent auditor on Crossrail up until 2015, and was part of the team that prepared the original Montague Report that promoted the project in 2004.

It also played a role in advising Sadiq Khan on Crossrail 2’s development, and was appointed by the mayor to investigate the issues surrounding the project.

Responding to the resignation of Morgan, Khan said: “For a while now I have had concerns about the effectiveness of Crossrail Ltd’s governance.

“Not only was I angry when Crossrail Ltd informed us that the project would be delayed, but historically there has been a lack of adequate information shared by the senior Crossrail leadership with the project’s joint sponsors - namely, the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London.”

He added: “Under new leadership, Crossrail must provide the joint sponsors and Londoners with the confidence that it has robust mechanisms in place to deliver a revised schedule, operating with a renewed sense of urgency and transparency across all parts of the project.”

The cost of Crossrail has soared around £1bn over budget, and last month the government was forced to provide a £350m short-term loan in order to prevent the project being further delayed.

Former Atkins chair Allan Cook has been appointed as the new chair of Crossrail.

A mayoral spokesperson said: “This is nonsense. The appointment of KPMG was made by Crossrail’s joint sponsors, both TfL and Greg Hands’ own government, through the DfT.

“A major organisation like KPMG previously advising an organisation does not necessarily result in a conflict. TfL have several contracts in place with the larger accountancy firms, who were all assessed to undertake the review into Crossrail’s governance and financing.

 “The decision to appoint KPMG took into consideration the immediacy of the work required and their knowledge of large-scale infrastructure projects.” 

Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire

 

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