Tuesday, July 10, 2007

PAC On Olympics Blank Cheque

Note for record: the original fag packet cost projection

The Public Accounts Committee has now issued its first report on the supersize blank cheque our rulers have written for the 2012 Olympics.

We've blogged this grandiose wobbling disaster many times of course, including the PAC meeting in March when the mandarins were grilled about the National Audit Office Report (see here and here).

Just for the record, it was originally supposed to cost taxpayers £2.375 bn- a wonderfully precise number that we now understand was plucked out of the air. The bill has already been officially escalated to £9.3bn- made up as follows:

  • General taxation- £6bn

  • London Council Tax- £1bn (if not tax now, then tax later when the IOUs have to be paid)

  • Lottery tax- £2.2bn (lottery tax? what else would you call the money creamed off from the fair prize pool?)

In all the grisly circumstances, the PAC Chairman is remarkably restrained:

"It is worrying that strong arrangements for monitoring progress and managing risk are so far not in place. Also absent are plans for ensuring the Olympic facilities will meet the needs of users after the Games."

Worrying. Actually, it is inconceivable that a mainstream commercial company would even consider running a major project on such a half-baked basis.

"If the delivery timetable slips, then the danger increases of delivery organisations having to pay more to contractors or reduce standards to ensure that the Games open on 27 July 2012."

Quite right- unlike say the Wembley fiasco, the Olympics have an absolutely fixed drop-dead date. And we taxpayers are on the hook for whatever it costs to finish the job on time.

“At the time of the bid, the Department seriously underestimated the costs of the Games and was far too optimistic about the extent of private sector funding. The truth is that the Government is financially exposed."

The Government is financially exposed? The Government? If only it was that fair.

It's us who are exposed. We poor schmucks who pick up the tab. The Government will just shuffle off to write up their diaries, take their peerages, and go on their lecture tours.

PS See here for video fisk of Tessa Jowell's Commons statement when she quadrupled her 2012 cost estimate.

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