The Grenfell inquiry’s latest choice of adviser beggars belief

Grenfell Tower
Sophia Akram

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has hired consultancy KPMG as an adviser, The Evening Standard reports.

However, the paper also reveals that the firm has worked with three of the major players at the heart of the fire’s investigation.

KPMG is a multi-billion-dollar consultancy firm that provides audit, tax and advisory services. The Standard writes that it has earned “millions of pounds auditing three of the main players being investigated over the tragic blaze and its aftermath”.

The three companies are:

  • Rydon, a construction company responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.During that refurbishment, allegedly cheaper and more flammable materials were used to clad the exterior of the tower.
  • Celotex, the manufacturer of allegedly unsuitable thermal insulation boards used on the tower.
  • The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the council being roundly criticised for its handling of the crisis and for allowing the use of materials in Grenfell Tower’s refurbishment. Materials that are now being called into question.

Appropriate partners?

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry has been set up to look at the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire.

But it has faced criticism over its appointments. This includes criticism of the inquiry’s chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, over his role in a controversial  housing case.

The inquiry announced a panel of assessors to help Moore-Bick on 15 November 2017. But a lawyer representing the survivors said that those working on the inquiry were not representative of those witnessing proceedings.

Survivors and bereaved family members started a petition calling on Theresa May to:

appoint additional panel members with decision making power to sit alongside Chair in Grenfell Tower Inquiry: to ensure those affected have confidence in & are willing to fully participate in the Inquiry.

However, the PM did not agree and the government response stated:

it is the Prime Minister’s view that the Inquiry panel has the necessary expertise to undertake the inquiry.

The Prime Minister is also very conscious of the need for the Inquiry to complete its initial report as quickly as reasonably possible.

Moore-Bick can still appoint a community panel, however.

In a rush

The need for expediency appears to be a recurring theme. The Cabinet Office awarded the £200,000 contract to KPMG in a fast-track process without considering other bidders.

An inquiry spokesperson told The Canary:

KPMG has provided the Inquiry with limited planning and program management support during its start up phase in order to help the Inquiry make rapid progress in its work. [It] has had no role in the Inquiry’s investigations or decision-making processes and its contract contains strict confidentiality clauses to ensure there can be no conflicts of interest.

KPMG is one of the approved suppliers that public sector organisations can contract through the Digital Marketplace. Given the need to move quickly in the aftermath of the fire, the Inquiry ran a single tender action.  This approach is in-line with Government procurement rules.

KPMG told The Evening Standard it had no role in the substance of the inquiry and is only advising on project management.

But the firm’s links to those at the heart of the investigation is unlikely to appease participants. Or convince them that proceedings genuinely represent their interests. The government should consider the choice to use a multi-billion-dollar company with links to key players in a matter of such great public interest. And it should ask whether it really fills the public with confidence.

Get Involved

– Read more articles from The Canary on the Grenfell Tower fire.

Featured image via the author

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