Appointment of Carillion as contractor and building controller makes it target for conflict of interest charges.

Carillion could face legal action over an alleged conflict of interest at its £800m GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

The problem centres on claims that Carillion Professional Services, which will carry out building control on the private finance initiative project, is too closely linked to Carillion Construction, the company that will build it.

The District Surveyors Association has written to the DETR raising the issue. In a letter obtained by Building dated 3 May, Andrew Little, chair of the West of England DSA, said: “We are not, as a group, confident that the two branches of Carillion are financially independent, given that Carillion Professional Services and Carillion Construction are quoted as having the same ultimate holding company.”

The letter goes on to say that the West of England DSA is seeking legal advice about the issue and that it may take legal action unless Carillion’s building control division is removed from the scheme.

It continues: “There have to be major moral and ethical reservations about how a project of this size and impact could be built and controlled by two companies with any links whatsoever, apart from a good working relationship.”

Will their inspectors be vigilant on standards if the parent company puts pressure on?

Source Cheltenham Council

The letter adds that the building control contract for the scheme was never subject to competition and, as such, is ignoring government policy on best value.

Ian Houston, head of building control at Cheltenham council, which wanted to bid for the contract, said: “We are pursuing Carillion Professional Services and Carillion Construction and are trying to identify financial links between the two.” He declined to comment further.

Another insider at Cheltenham council building control said: “The question is, will their inspectors be necessarily vigilant on standards if the parent company puts pressure on them and tells them they are holding things up?”

It is understood that Carillion Professional Services withdrew from the construction of the Dartford & Gravesham PFI hospital in Kent, which Carillion also built, after the local authority building control said it would challenge its involvement in the scheme.

Carillion executive director John Sharples said: “We recognise the concerns of the local authority, but Carillion Professional Services building control is a professional organisation, and the position is, we wish to employ it. There are a number of precedents of Carillion Professional Services doing this for other Carillion companies.”