London Assembly members vote to investigate Boris Johnson’s £1bn deal with a Chinese firm to redevelop London’s historic Royal Albert Dock, after a Channel 4 News investigation.
Their decision follows a stormy Greater London Assembly question session at which Mr Johnson came under fire from three opposition parties for more than half an hour, and he tried to rush through reading the conclusions of an interim audit report which his office says gives him a “clean bill of health” on the matter.
The Channel 4 News investigation into the developer, ABP raised questions over whether the company was given favourable treatment during the tender process, and also about the developer’s human rights record in China.
But today’s audit report, which was compiled in only a few days, does not mention the firm’s human rights record, or another main feature of the Channel 4 News film – the seemingly close relationship between ABP and Boris Johnson‘s overseas promotion agency London and Partners, which has shared an office in Beijing with ABP for the past three years. Indeed, the audit report does not mention London and Partners at all.
Mr Johnson told opposition members during the Mayor’s Questions at City Hall that the procurement process was “compliant”, and dismissed claims that the developer’s selection was in any way compromised.
In a statement, the London mayor said: “The conclusion is the procurement process was compliant and it is therefore clear that any suggestion made by Channel 4 that the developer’s selection was in any way compromised is unfounded and I am confident that due practice was followed at every stage.
“The programme made a number of allegations regarding to ABP’s human rights record. I have not been provided with information or evidence to support these allegations.”
A Liberal Democrat Assembly member, Stephen Knight, quoted the former Chairman of the Committee on Standards on Public Life, Sir Alastair Graham, who told Channel 4 News that the deal with ABP “has the smell of a semi-corrupt arrangement”.
Labour London Assembly member Len Duvall, however, questioned why an independent inquiry had not been held after Mr Johnson blocked such a probe.
Mr Duvall said: “For all too long, there’s been some issues around transparency, and I accept the need for commercial confidentiality but who’s making that decision that it’s right to be kept secret. There has to be some open discussion about that.”
Mr Duvall also questioned the propriety of a key figure in the evaluation process by Boris Johnson and the Greater London Authority, Tom Keady, taking a job with ABP six months after helping to assess the tender bids.
Former deputy mayor of London Nicky Gavron told the assembly: “We need to be clear because the public needs to have confidence in our tendering and procurement processes. And we don’t want any hint of bias or preferential treatment by the mayor, his agencies and his offices.”
London Assembly members voted to carry out their own investigation after the mayor agreed to give them the relevant documentation.