Bovis defends role at EBRD building

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The Independent Online
CONTRACTORS that worked on the luxurious London headquarters of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) yesterday rushed to defend their role in the controversial project.

Bovis, a subsidiary of the construction and transport conglomerate P&O, responded to allegations of extravagance by its client by trumpeting that it had undertaken 'one of the fastest fitting out programmes of such scale and complexity in London'.

Chris Spackman, chairman of Bovis, said the headquarters building in the Broadgate development was 'at the leading edge in terms of innovative design, construction techniques, cost effectiveness and quality'.

His statement followed the disclosure that the EBRD had spent more than pounds 200m during the past two years on fitting out its offices, travel in chartered jets and entertainment. During the period it had disbursed loans of only about pounds 125m to fund schemes such as power stations and telephone networks in eastern Europe.

The EBRD has been criticised for spending pounds 750,000 on Carrara marble from Tuscany for the bank's main lobby and for hosting a pounds 52,000 champagne party for its staff.

It is thought the marble was acquired to replace inferior travertine marble, because Pierre Pissaloux, the bank's director of planning and budget, thought the original stone 'didn't give us the right feeling'.

The quantity surveyor that oversaw the cost plan of the refit added its voice for the defence, arguing that the cost was unexceptional compared with the headquarters buildings of other financial institutions in London.

Gardiner & Theobald, appointed by the EBRD in December 1991 to advise on the project's costs, said the plan approved by the bank reflected the fact that the job had to be completed in less than a year.

The EBRD needed to move into Broadgate by December 1992 due to the rapid growth of its staff numbers. Despite this, Gardiner & Theobald said, a process of competitive tender had resulted in 'extremely keen and competitive bids'.

It is understood that Theo Waigel, the German finance minister who is chairman of the bank, will question Jacques Attali, its president, about allegations of excessive spending before a meeting next week of the bank's governors.