A review of procedures is being carried out by auditors after questions were raised over a £1bn deal to develop the Royal Albert Dock, which was won by a Chinese company.
In a report broadcast last night, Channel 4 News said the firm which won the contract — Advanced Business Park (ABP) — had close links to London & Partners (L&P), which had been sharing an office with ABP in Beijing since March 2012. As a result, Channel 4 queried whether it was appropriate for the agency to assess ABP’s ability to attract businesses to the proposed new development. L&P is part-funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
Channel 4 journalist Michael Crick also claimed that Xuelin Bates – the Chinese-born wife of junior Home Office minister Lord (Michael) Bates – may have helped support ABP's Royal Albert Dock bid, simultaneously donating over £160,000 to the Conservative Party.
But Mayor Boris Johnson strongly denies there was any impropriety. Spokesman Jonathan Edwards told Londonist: “The Mayor refutes the allegations made by Channel 4 News... A competitive procurement process was followed and due diligence, including financial checks, carried out that did not raise any cause for concern for the Greater London Authority. ABP won the competition on the basis that its bid for the site scored higher than its competitors.
“After Channel 4 made inquiries regarding this project the Mayor’s team [has commissioned] a review of the procurement arrangements by the Greater London Authority’s internal auditors. We expect that review to report back imminently.”
We’ll have to wait what the review concludes, but in the meantime, there’s another issue for the Mayor to address.
Channel 4 News also aired claims about ABP's human rights record. It's alleged that ABP had a hand in forcing residents from their homes at the site of its development in Fengtai Science Park, Beijing. In one piece of footage shot by a resident in 2010, a family returns to their home to find it has been bulldozed, all their possessions still inside.
The family say that as well as the shock of losing their home, they didn't receive adequate compensation. Channel 4 News reports it has “substantial legal paperwork” to back this claim.
When questioned on ABP's previous conduct by Michael Crick, Johnson appears to claim this is news to him, says “wasn't relevant to the tendering process”, then vows to “look at” the allegations.
Londonist pressed the Mayor's office on what this 'looking at' would involve, and were told: "ABP fails to see any connection between a video from Fengtai Science Park and the ABP development in Beijing. ABP absolutely refutes any suggestion that we had any knowledge or responsibility for this situation and this was made absolutely clear to Channel 4.
“However, Channel 4 chose not to report this fact or indeed that ABP Beijing was fully completed in 2010 when Channel 4 claim the farm was demolished.”
The Royal Albert Dock – 35 acres of derelict land opposite London City Airport – is being transformed into a commercial centre aimed at wooing Asian businesses.