Committee asks why no disciplinary action was taken on job that was £115m over budget and three years late.
The powerful House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has delivered a damning report on a £150m hospital project in London.

The committee says it is appalled that a project of the scale of Guy’s Hospital Phase III could spiral out of control over nine years and calls approval of the initial £35.5m budget a disgrace.

The report says: “The project cost £115m more than the original estimate of £35.5m and was delivered three years late. It is a disgrace that the original estimate was so inadequate and was approved by the Department of Health and the Treasury.”

The findings are contained in a report on the project, which was finished in May 1997 by management contractor Higgs & Hill under project management by P&O Developments.

The report blames the delays and cost overruns on constant changes in senior personnel on the project, which involved construction of in-patient, out-patient, teaching and research facilities.

The MPs were particularly scathing about the NHS Executive’s failure to take action against any individual over the waste of public money.

The report says: “The committee asked if anyone had investigated who might have been responsible for this situation. The executive told us no one had started looking retrospectively at individuals.

“We asked if anyone had been reprimanded for failure to comply with construction guidelines. To the executive’s knowledge, no action had been taken.

“We asked whether anyone had been disciplined for the unrealistic first bid of £35m and subsequent overspend of £115m. No one had.

“We asked the Treasury whether the individual concerned with the appraisal and approval of the original estimate of the project still worked for them. They did not know.” The NHS Executive argued that it was difficult to untangle different elements of the scheme and apportion blame. But it said controls now in place would make the chief executive of the NHS trust commissioning the project fully accountable.

It also argued that in the future, publicly funded health projects would not repeat the mistakes made at Guy’s Hospital, because “disciplined project evaluation, project organisation, proper contracting”, and better business cases and risk analysis would keep projects under control.

However, sceptical MPs claimed that they had heard these promises before during the examination of overruns on the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital project.

The MPs concluded by calling on the NHS Executive to ensure that the guidelines were rigorously followed by trusts.