Finances at the Dome were a mess, says report

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The winding up of the company that ran the Millennium Dome was dogged by poor record-keeping, "ineffective compliance with internal controls" and allegations of fraud, a report by the Government's spending watchdog concluded yesterday.

The investigation by the National Audit Office into the liquidation of the Dome is highly critical of the way the New Millennium Experience Company ran its financial affairs. It found that "in many cases" there was no legally binding contract with suppliers of goods and services to the attraction in Greenwich, south-east London.

There was a "lack of transparency in contracting suppliers" and "poor record- keeping in general".

The report noted that 129 suppliers to the Dome had been identified who had submitted invoices for £50,000 for which no contract could be found. The National Audit Office said the absence of adequate records complicated the task of placing the company into liquidation.

The report warned of the need for "proper records and financial controls" and said this was an issue that the Government should consider if it becomes involved in future capital projects.

The winding-up process was also hampered by police investigations into fraud allegations linked to the award of contracts for the Dome. Two cases referred to the Metropolitan Police Service public sector corruption unit are still under investigation and arrests have been made. The report said: "Police inquiries continue and as these matters are under police investigation and possibly subject to legal proceedings, specific case details are not provided."

In September 2000 a team from PricewaterhouseCoopers Forensic Services was appointed to examine the possibility of fraud at the Dome. It found that although there was "no evidence of systematic fraud", there were "weaknesses" in the way the company procured contracts.

The PwC team concluded that "it was difficult to assess potential loss suffered by the company as a direct result of the alleged frauds".

The NAO report said: "There were also instances of poor or ineffective compliance with internal controls, especially on work awarded without competition. This means it was doubtful that some purchases were good value for money."

But the report found that the winding up of the company was "handled in a professional way", and was able to ensure that it was solvent before it was put into voluntary liquidation in December 2001.

The Dome closed at the end of December 2000 and was decommissioned at a cost of £6.3m. The company received £3.5m from an auction of contents in February 2001 and a further £1m from the private sale of items which were withheld because they might be required by a purchaser of the Dome.