Top firm pulls out of controversial Velindre cancer centre project
The NHS Trust taking forward the New Velindre cancer centre project has sought to play down the fact that arguably the best-known company in the construction consortium appointed to deliver it has quietly withdrawn.
In July 2022 the global engineering and design consultancy Arup was announced as one of 14 members of the Acorn consortium “team” to build the £562m unit in the Whitchurch district of Cardiff..
A press release issued at the time said: “The successful participant of the competition to design, build, finance and maintain the new Velindre Cancer Centre has been announced today, July 27 2022.
“Velindre Cancer Centre provides specialist cancer services for the patient population of south east Wales. In September 2021, Velindre University NHS Trust launched a competition to develop the new Velindre Cancer Centre following the Welsh Government’s approval of the outline business case in March 2021.
“Following a robust nine month competition which delivered two exceptionally strong bids, Velindre University NHS Trust can announce that the successful participant which will work with patients, staff and the local community on the development of the new centre, is the Acorn consortium. The consortium team includes Kajima Partnerships, Sacyr, Abrdn, Andrew Scott, Kier Facilities Services, White Arkitekter, Arup, MJ Medical, Turley, Studio Response, Camlins Landscape Architects, Osborne Clarke, Operis and Confab Lab.”
Steve Ham, chief executive of Velindre University NHS Trust said: “Our ambition for the design of the new centre has been clear from the outset – we want to build a cancer centre for the future which is the greenest in the UK. We were delighted with the proposals that were put forward and are grateful to the bidders for their extraordinary commitment to the competitive dialogue process.
“We asked for a design that makes people feel good, that is strong, long lasting, flexible and efficient. We have got that – and so much more. We look forward to welcoming our first patient into the new centre.”
Recently, however, Arup’s name has dropped off the list of consortium participants, even though no formal statement explaining the reason for that was issued.
We sent a message to Ben Pritchard, the Wales director of Arup, asking why the company had pulled out of the Acorn consortium. He did not respond.
We then asked Velindre NHS Trust why Arup had withdrawn. A week after asking, Velindre University NHS Trust spokesman eventually came back with a response that said: “Several companies have been involved at various stages as we develop the new Velindre Cancer Centre. The company referenced provided engineering support during the competition phase of the project.
“Work continues to progress well to build our new cancer centre and negotiations of the project agreement with Acorn are progressing with pace. We are glad to report that we are all working towards a successful outcome, having come this far based on great teamwork.”
The construction of New Velindre has faced strong opposition on environmental and medical grounds.
Earlier this year Nation.Cymru revealed how two of Acorn’s members – the Kajima group and Sacyr – have been found guilty of fraud offences in Japan and Spain respectively.
Kajima was sentenced for bid-rigging in March 2021, with one of its executives receiving a suspended prison sentence and the company itself being fined 250 million yen (around £1.53m) for its role in the scandal, which involved a number of firms colluding with each other on the construction of a railway line to maximise their profits.
Sacyr received a penalty of €16.7m in July 2022 for its part in creating a cartel aimed at aligning bids for government contracts.
The campaign group Colocate Velindre – which argues that the new cancer centre should be built adjacent to a district general hospital rather than as a stand-alone facility – says the two firms should be barred from participation in the Welsh project because of a crucial part of the UK’s Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
Regulation 57 states that companies will be excluded from the procurement of public contracts if they have been convicted of fraud offences.
There has been speculation that Arup may have withdrawn from the New Velindre project because it wanted to distance itself from companies that have been convicted of bid-rigging offences.
A spokesperson for Colocate Velindre said: ““It seems odd that a significant member of the consortium should quietly leave it without any announcement. Surely engineering expertise of the kind available from Arup would be required in the construction phase,
“Meanwhile we await with interest the outcome of the Senedd’s Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee’s review of the project, especially in relation to the two participating companies in the consortium with criminal convictions for bid-rigging.”
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