Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2001
MOTTRAM, KCB, MR
CBE AND MR
20. Do you know what the comparative figures
(Mr Gershon) We have no accurate data.
21. You do not know all.
(Mr Gershon) We can say with confidence, and this
was brought out in the Egan Report through certain examples, that
some private sector clients through employing the sorts of techniques
we are now trying to introduce into the public sector have achieved
dramatic improvements in the cost and schedule performance and
value for money compared to traditional methods.
22. We do not have the relative figures. Do
we have the relative figures on public sector over time, in 1999
they were over budget by 70 per cent, how does that compare with
(Mr Gershon) We do not have comparable benchmarking
data. The exercise that I referred to, which was undertaken by
the Bath University, was the first determined effort to establish
a comprehensive baseline position, a place where we could start
to do performance measurement in the future.
23. If 73 per cent were over budget, have you
any idea how much over budget that was? When you add it all up,
would it be 30 per cent more than the estimated actual cost? Do
we know that figure, the aggregate? If it was my business I would
be interested in it. Can I ask Deryk Eke, because obviously you
have come from the private sector, and I just wanted to ask a
couple of qualitative questions, really, is it your impression,
with a BAA hat coming in, that the culture is very different and
there is something inherent in private sector operation, namely
the need to maximise profits and get a big salary, and as a result
that drives people to focus on productivity and reduce costs and
that it is impossible to deliver through all of these peculiar
structures of the public sector?
(Mr Eke) I can answer from BAA's perspective. The
thing that drove BAA was not particularly fat salaries, it was
something to do with being a regulated organisation, one that
is privatised and regulated in the same way as utilities are.
24. A halfway house.
(Mr Eke) The opportunity to earn revenue from an airport
operation was limited by an RPI formula. Over the past two quinquennials
we have operated under an RPI minus formula. They are currently
RPI minus three per cent. The ability to earn revenue to pay for
the capital cost meeting capacity demands with the regulator also
demanding it was limited.
25. If you wanted an injection of private sector
skill you should have gone to McAlpine, not BAA. Is that what
you are saying?
(Mr Eke) No, no, no. What I am saying is that the
drivers in terms of business drivers for BAA were there to do
something about the cost of the construction industry, that is
why BAA got involved in changing the way that industry and the
way that the client works with industry.
26. From what you see, are you happy with the
processes that are being implemented as an effective and clear
means of driving down costs in improving productivity and the
proper timetabling of projects?
(Mr Eke) Within the public sector?
27. Yes, that is what you do.
(Mr Eke) That is what I am doing. There are very good
foundations laid through the Achieving Excellence Initiative.
We are working closely now with a number of departments to improve
the performance of the client. This is all about opening the heart's
and mind's of clients to ways of doing things differently to business
as usual. Unfortunately, there are a large number of one-offs
and occasional clients within the government public sector and
they tend to go to architectssorry if there are any architects
in the roomand quantity surveyors who are very good as
delivering a "business as usual solution", because they
get paid on a fee basis. What we are trying to do is understand
from disseminating the best practice available in the private
sector, and some of the public sector clients, and helping the
one-off and occasional client to do things differently and be
more effective as a client.
(Sir Richard Mottram) If I can make one point, I can
caricature it as a "bid low, claim high culture" which
much of the construction industry applied in its relationship
with private sector clients, as well as public sector clients.
What we have been trying to do is find best practice at the client
level and through that to help transform the performance of the
industry. It is no accident that Sir John Egan was asked to do
the report he did, because he headed up a company that was very
successful in doing that, amongst other things. As this report
brings out, there are a number of public sector and government
departments who are also trying to improve client performance.
It is not a private sector/public sector matter. It is quite a
28. Can I ask, I do not know if this is a fair
question to ask, the Jubilee Line is held up as a great example
of public sector failure of procurement. If it was done in a different
way, in one of your new techniques, how much better would it have
(Sir Richard Mottram) I think it would have been significantly
better, because we would have realised at the beginning that it
was going to cost more than it was assumed at the beginning it
was going to cost. We would not magic it away.
29. What about the cost estimates?
(Sir Richard Mottram) The costs estimate, in my view,
were always too low, the contingencies were too low. There was
not a proper procurement process, in my view, because London Underground
were trying to integrate themselves a whole series of very difficult
projects, where they would have been better if they had of employed
a prime contractor, or at least two or three prime contractors.
The structure or the way they tried to manage the project was
wrong and all of the estimating was over-optimistic. If you applied
some of these lessons it would have come in probably somewhat
less than it came in on, somewhat earlier and in better shape.
30. There is a systemic reason for better estimates.
Do you predict under the new regime for the tube, assuming it
happens, that we will not have overruns of those magnitudes at
all in terms of costs and time?
(Sir Richard Mottram) That would be our intention,
yes. There are not any big projects like the Jubilee Line on that
31. The aggregates.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes. One of the objectives in
relation to London Underground PPP is to improve performance on
the management of infrastructure improvement.
32. It is always good to be a layman when you
read these reports. You can read the report not having any fixed
view about itvery often you can get the wrong end of the
stick, which I normally do, I hope I have not got the end of the
stick in this reportthe report tells us there have been
many initiatives to improve construction performance. The Chairman
pointed out those initiative on page 19, dating back to something
like 1994. One of these schemes is the Construction Best Practice
Programme, page 24.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.
33. It was established in 1998 and cost £2
million to establish.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Yes.
34. We are told in paragraph 1.13 on page 25,
despite all of the efforts, "The Construction Best Practice
Programme estimates that it has reached nine per cent of the working
population in the industry". That is disastrous.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Nine per cent of the working
population of this industry is actually a lot of people. That
would be my first point. My second point would be, I am not being
facetiousunlike me normallywhat we are talking about
here is a programme which we have rolled out over two years, where
the aim is to create an environment where the industry itself
wants to acquire this best practice. We are pushing it out. We
are certainly encouraging people to pull it off us, so to speak.
There is a limit to what we can do. We cannot make people do it.
35. I am not criticising you. I would be the
last person in the world to criticise you, I think are you a very
(Sir Richard Mottram) I feel trouble coming on, Chairman.
36. The Committee are lost in admiration for
you, Sir Richard.
(Sir Richard Mottram) I feel even more trouble. Our
view of nine per cent would be it is not a bad number.
37. Why, it is so low?
(Sir Richard Mottram) What we are talking about is
communicating within an industry which has many different characteristics,
with people who are and are not involved in areas where they think
they can apply these lessons. In my view, you keep plugging away
consistently. The key thing to do, in my view, is to have a coherent
story and to keep telling it for a reasonable amount of time and
incentivise the various players in the industry to be interested
in what we are pumping out.
38. You have been doing this since 1994, in
terms of initiatives.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Before 1994.
39. That is even worse, that is worse.
(Sir Richard Mottram) Absolutely, yes.