The Metro Line 9 scandal: already 14 years behind schedule and €5bn over budget

A new report by the Audit Office questions the contracting of some works

Line 9 of the Barcelona Metro was presented as the longest in Europe. It was in 2000. After two decades, it has now been known that the work (which has not yet been completed) can also break other records: it is already 14 years behind schedule and a gone €5 billion over budget, according to a report by the Audit Office.

This report analyses the accounts of line 9 until December 31, 2016, and highlights that the works were already a decade behind schedule. Now, four years later, the central section between Sagrera and Zona Universitaria has still not come into operation. Therefore, since the work has not yet been completed, the extra costs will continue to increase.

But this is not the only problem. The report highlights that the initial cost of construction was just under €2bn. But on December 31st 2016 the expenditure already amounted to almost €7bn, an amount that included the cost of the investment (4,796m) plus the financial costs (2,120m), both of the budgetary works and of the concessions. With these numbers, according to the Audit Office, the cost of 6,916 million was 4,949 million more than initially foreseen. These extra costs represent an increase of 250%. Or, in other words: they more than tripled.

Furthermore, as detailed in the study, almost a third of the costs of the work (2,120 million) have been financial, that is, interest that has had to be paid to the entities that have financed the construction.

But the deviation of the cost and the delay of the works are not the only problems detected by the Audit Office. The analysis also questions some aspects of the contracting from Ifercat and GISA, the public companies of the Government of Catalonia in charge of the work.

Self-awarded by the President of Infrastructures

Among the awards questioned by the Audit Office, one of the most important is a service contract (specifically, for technical assistance for systems and infrastructure integration engineering and coordination of tests on line 9) worth €640,000. This contract was awarded to a joint venture and could be against the law because the then president of the body deciding on the contract, Joan Lluís Quer, was the sole administrator of one of the companies in the joint venture.

Quer resigned in November 2015, after an investigation related to the "3%" corruption scheme, and after being charged in another case related to the Catalan Water Agency.

Insufficient justification for awards

Thus, it should be noted that in the files awarded after the entry into force of the Public Sector Contracts Law (LCSP) in April 2008, quantifiable criteria will not automatically prevail over those requiring a value judgment. This was ignored in this case and not duly justified.

In addition, in the evaluation report on the technical offer of three of the seven files awarded during the 2009-2010 period by GISA and Ifercat, there was no justification for the scores given to each of the bidders. And in the 2011-2015 period, the justification was included in all the files, but "it was done in a generic way that the Audit Office considers insufficient".

Audit Office sees "undue fractioning" of award contracts

It is also stressed that, in the tenders declared as allegedly abnormal or disproportionate during the period 2010-2014, the technical reports assessing the allegations submitted by the tenderers were not sufficiently reasoned. None of the files audited in which allegedly abnormal or disproportionate bids were rejected contained the proposal for exclusion from the Contracting Committee. The Audit Office, in this aspect, also questions the performance of the Technical Evaluation Office between 2011 and 2015.

The Audit Office also regrets the processing of modifications to some contracts between 2006 and 2016; and in ten files awarded by GISA and Ifercat between 2009 and 2010, "certain incidents related to the objects of the contracts, the amounts, the dates or the types of contracts" have been detected that represent a breach of the law on public sector contracts and "it is considered that there must be an undue fractioning of the contracts".

In addition, the Audit Office highlights work certifications and cost overruns agreed upon with contractors that were not foreseen in the approved project, differences in measurements exceeding 10%, which indicate that the cost of the investment foreseen in the economic and financial plan for 2016 did not include some items.

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