Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Sir Rodney Walker (former Chairman of WNSL)

  I have become aware that there is to be a Select Committee meeting on Tuesday to which Tropus Ltd will be invited. I understand that the purpose of the meeting will be to review their report in order to assess the appropriateness of Wembley as a government-sponsored project.

  As the Chairman of Wembley National Stadium from December 2000 until recently I feel compelled to write to you on the matter. Ideally, if it was possible, I would have liked to have attended the Select Committee meeting to represent WNSL, however I am overseas and therefore this not an option.

  Tropus approached me in June 2001 to talk to me about misgivings that they had about the management of the Wembley project. This was just after the contract with Tropus was terminated at the time when all of the consultants that we were using at the time were "laid off". This was just as we were entering the period when, with the Government, we reviewed all of our options regarding the National Stadium and we had to minimise our running costs until we were clear as to the way forward.

  The allegations made by Tropus were sufficiently serious that I asked them to put them in writing so that they could be properly considered by the WNSL Board. This report was received on August 1.

  The WNSL Board quickly assessed that there needed to be a full investigation and initiated a search for an independent person to carry this out. After consultation and careful consideration Mr David James was appointed. He recommended the use of Berwin Leighton Paisner, a law firm that he had worked with previously.

  The allegations made by Tropus largely fell into three areas, they related to the process used to procure the construction contract, aspects of corporate governance and issues of management style. Mr James investigated those issues which were felt to be most significant. His report is thorough and indeed, does identify some deficiencies. The Wembley team have been quick to implement Mr James' recommendations and I am confident that the company is now ready to tackle the project. This has been borne out by the various reviews that have subsequently declared that the project is well managed, viable and should proceed to contract stage (Office of Government Commerce March 2002).

  I wished to inform you that I took personal charge of the investigations and I am satisfied that the substantive issues in their reports were fully investigated. It seemed from subsequent discussions with Tropus that in their opinion the project was never as well run as when they themselves were in sole charge of the Construction department, prior to the appointment of the Construction Director. Many of their comments about management style and processes amounted to merely differences in management style and are in my opinion of little or no relevance.

  It is interesting that they did not approach me until after their contract had been terminated, not maliciously but as a natural consequence of the position that the project was in at the time. Given the nature of these issues it has, of course, not been possible to re-appoint them once the project was re-mobilised.

  Many of the allegations and subsequent comments from Tropus management seem to relate to a personal issue that they have with one particular WNSL employee. I am particularly concerned that this individual has never been given the chance to defend the allegations other than those that were fully investigated by BLP.

  I trust that you will receive my comments in the spirit in which they are intended, from someone who has been careful to ensure that the correct procedures have been followed since December 2000 and that the project is now in the best position possible to achieve a successful conclusion.

17 May 2002

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