South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called on the First Minister to order a fundamental review into the way in which public sector construction projects are carried out, following the inquiry by Professor Cole into the DG One Leisure Complex.
The local MSP raised the issue with Nicola Strurgeon during First Ministers Questions on Thursday (3 May), at which he branded work carried out by the firm behind DGOne as “criminal” and challenged the First Minister to say whether it was acceptable that Kier Construction continued to rake in millions of pounds from the taxpayer on construction projects for the Government.
Kier Construction was slammed for a catalogue of failings when building DG One but has continued to land high-profile public contracts – including a £34.5m deal to build new facilities Golden Jubilee National Hospital at the end of last year, which will be completed by 2021. In October 2014 – the same month in which DG One was forced to shut for repairs – Kier was also chosen to build two new secondary schools in South Ayrshire and it is behind projects such as the refurbishment of Glasgow School of Art following the devastating fire that ripped through the building in 2014.
The report published by Professor Cole last week concluded that full responsibility for defects found in the DG One lay with Keir Construction. The Report details very serious defects such as unstable wall ties and a fire escape strategy that compromised safety and made clear that DGone was not a one-off, with major lessons to be learned across public sector construction projects.
In a statement following his report Professor Cole said, … “ the role that current approaches to the planning, procurement, design and management of construction projects within the public sector may have played in contributing to these problems must be examined and public bodies must be better equipped to ensure that the quality of design and construction of their projects are to the standard required."
Colin Smyth believes that changes must be made to the procurement processes across the whole public sector to ensure that the appropriate level of expertise is employed for all large capital projects can ensure the failings shown in DG One and the Edinburgh Schools is not repeated.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Colin Smyth asked Nicola Sturgeon: "This week Professor John Cole published his independent inquiry into the flawed construction of the DG One leisure complex in Dumfries.
"Whilst there are lessons for the council, he concluded that full responsibility for the defective construction lay with the contractor – Kier Construction.
"From breaches in the law when it came to building warrants to a fire escape strategy that completely comprised safety, their actions in my view were criminal.
"Does the First Minister therefore believe that it is still acceptable that Kier Construction continue to rake in millions of pounds from the taxpayer, building schools and hospitals for the Scottish Government?
"And given that Professor Cole concludes there are striking similarities in the safety related failings by a major contractor exposed in this inquiry and the one he carried out into the construction of Edinburghschools, surely the time has come for a fundamental review into the way we plan, procure, design and manage public sector construction projects to stop cowboy construction firms ripping off the public and frankly putting lives at risk?"
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “…we will pay extremely close attention to the findings and recommendations of the report that the member cites. If that requires us to take any further action, that is exactly what we will do.”
Speaking after First Ministers Questions, Colin Smyth added, “Professor Cole’s report contains lessons that go way beyond DGOne and make clear that unless we have a fundamental review of the way in which construction projects such as this are procured from big companies, this will happen again across Scotland. Worryingly Professor Cole highlights the fact that many of the issues raised by DGone and other construction projects are similar to those being investigated following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We have to make sure it does not take a tragedy before people wake up to what the wider lessons are from Professor Coles inquiry”.