Gifts for Olympic bureaucrats

An investigation I’ve been doing into the Olympic Delivery Authority resulted in a story in today’s Sunday Times.

Olympic chiefs take contractors’ junkets

Jon Ungoed-Thomas, October 14, 2007

SENIOR executives responsible for building London’s 2012 Olympic venues have accepted junkets and expensive hospitality from companies to whom they have awarded contracts worth millions of pounds.

Officials on the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) have received theatre tickets, seats at rugby matches and days at the races worth thousands of pounds from firms that have received or are bidding for work.

The ODA disclosed the details after months of pressure from the Open Society Institute (OSI), using freedom of information laws. But it gave OSI researchers only 90 minutes to view hundreds documents, would not allow copies to be made and is now refusing to let anyone else see the names of the officials.

The list shows City legal firms, construction businesses and consultancies are among those courting the key executives as they vie for a share of the £9 billion Olympic budget.

Junkets include days out at Ascot, free tickets to international and cup rugby matches at Twickenham, the last night of the Proms at the Albert Hall, the Stella Artois tennis tournament and dinner at Claridge’s.

Sue Kershaw, head of project management at the ODA, accepted a ticket to the Proms in August 2006 from Costain, one of Britain’s leading construction companies which is bidding for Olympic work. The next month she and her husband accepted invitations from Costain’s business development manager to go to the last night of the Proms.

The ODA said the invitation was accepted by Kershaw because it came from a former colleague and friend, and that she is not involved in deciding contracts for Costain. She had also turned down invitations from Costain for her and her husband to go to Ascot.

Entertainment accepted by David Higgins, the ODA chief executive, included a night at the theatre with the Arup Group, a contractor, on April 12, and a trip to a concert on August 7 with Sir Robert McAlpine, the construction firm building the Olympic stadium.

Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP, said: “Expensive freebies should not be accepted from businesses by the employees of the organisation responsible for Olympic contracts. They’re not entertaining these people because they’re good company, but because they hope to make profits out of the Olympics.”

It was initially estimated it would cost Britain £2.4 billion to host the games, but estimated costs have now risen to about £9 billion. It has meant a potential bonanza for contractors as the ODA awards contracts for infrastructure, transport and construction of the Olympic park.

Hospitality registers for 2006 and 2007 reveal a wide array of sporting events, nights at the theatre and expensive meals being accepted by ODA staff. These included lunch at the Chelsea flower show, a trip to the ballet and tickets to Ascot.

Members of the ODA’s legal department accepted a trip to the Stella Artois tennis tournament, a trip to Ascot, a ticket to a charity ball and a ticket to the rugby cup final last May at Twickenham between the London Wasps and the Leicester Tigers.

Heather Brooke, UK director of the OSI’s anticorruption survey, said: “The ODA should at least be straight with the public about the gifts and hospitality they are receiving for carrying out this very public role.”

An ODA spokesman said employees were barred from accepting hospitality from any companies who were bidding for contracts.

He added: “Occasional hospitality from partners with whom we are already working closely is not unusual and can be important to help build relationships on what is a very challenging project.”

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One Response to “Gifts for Olympic bureaucrats”

  1. Boot Camp Vancouver BC says:

    9 Billion, my god does it actually cost that much!

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