Olympic Delivery Authority chief David Higgins scraps tenders for a programme manager and velopark designer.

In a sweeping move, Higgins called a halt to bids for the two contracts in order to widen their scope.

The programme manager role will be enlarged, with responsibility for all legacy issues as well more influence on the design aspects.

The move will come as a blow to existing bidders, particularly the six teams who have spent the past six months working on the programme manager contract.

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At the government's Olympic business summit on Tuesday, Higgins said he had made the change because he wanted the ODA to be a "smart client". This means it will have fewer staff and will leave the management of bids to other firms.

Higgins said: "We have had a long chat about this and we're very clear about what we want to do. We can either be a large in-house organisation or we can be much more focused. We're very sure we want to be the latter."

Higgins said that he could not continue with the six current bidders because he was changing the scope of the contracts and it would contravene procurement rules to do so. He said the change would bring about "minimal" delay.

One source close to the process greeted this with scepticism. He said: "He's saying there isn't going to be much of a delay but to go through the whole process again will take at least four months."

Insiders say Higgins restarted the process because he wanted to look again at who could do the job, particularly the giant US firm Bechtel.

We’ve had a long chat about this and are clear about what we want

David Higgins

A source said: "If you want a list of the really big hitters, then it would have Bechtel on it. I don't believe Higgins would have restarted the process just because of legacy issues. I think it's more likely he didn't like the shortlist."

Bechtel did not pitch for the programme manager role originally but is understood to have a team working on Olympic issues. A source at the company said the firm was "significantly interested" in applying for the enhanced role.

Graham Watts, Construction Industry Council chief executive, said he appreciated that firms that had bid would be "inconvenienced" but said it was essential that Higgins had the right programme manager.

Jim Sloman, who masterminded the 2000 Sydney Games, said he admired Higgins' stance. "I must congratulate the ODA for standing back and asking whether all the right structures are in place. It's incredibly important - you can't do it a couple of years down the line."

Higgins allayed fears that the ODA would not adopt progressive procurement techniques. He said he wanted the ODA to be a client like BAA at Heathrow Terminal 5, which champions supply-chain integration, and use the Ministry of Defence's Project SLAM as a possible template.

The programme manager will work with the ODA to hire a design team for the stadium and manage the integration of all work related to sustainability.

The ODA will re-tender the project manager role in the coming weeks, but the velopark contract will not be reissued until the summer.

Olympic summit at a glance

  • Programme manager bidding process to be restarted in the coming weeks. US giant Bechtel said to be “significantly interested” in bidding for the contract
  • Design contract for the velopark to be re-tendered in the summer
  • CABE and GLA to launch Olympic design review panel
  • EDAW consortium and consultants Arup, Atkins and Buro Happold chosen to design the Olympic park and infrastructure