Major orders building costs scrutiny

THE PRIME Minister yesterday ordered a full-scale investigation into bad management of multi-million pound government building projects, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

High on the list of projects which have significantly overshot their budgets will be the new British Library in London, under construction for 12 years and which the Commons National Heritage select committee last month described as a 'shambles', with neither completion date nor final costing.

The aim of the scrutiny by the Government's Efficiency Unit is to save millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on hospitals, prisons, road programmes and other projects. A team of civil servants headed by Sir Peter Levene, the Prime Minister's efficiency adviser, will examine large contracts which have significantly overshot their budgets and changes in specification which have caused costs to escalate.

The review is expected to last at least four months and its findings could be embarrassing for the Government. It comes in the wake of a unit report last month that condemned the use of outside consultants by government departments.

The earlier review found pounds 65m a year was being wasted on poor management, lack of training and low levels of co- ordination.

In making its recommendations the team will take into account an independent review of the construction industry by Sir Peter Latham, published in July, which identified wide scope for savings by 2000 by changing working practices.

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