Millennium Dome FD Neil Spence was this week tipped to become the latest boardroom casualty in the mounting political scandal surrounding finances at Greenwich.
Rumours of Spence’s impending departure emerged as weekend reports revealed that Millennium Commission accountants from Deloitte & Touche earlier this year were called in to monitor New Millennium Experience Company figures.
Dome minister Lord Falconer is believed to have ignored advice by Deloitte analysts from January that the Greenwich attraction would run out of money.
Further fiasco loomed at the Dome this week as Nomura International, the Japanese bank, announced that it would pull out of its #105m bid for the attraction citing its lack of access to a separate report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the Dome’s finances.
The PwC report handed to the board last month deemed the Dome insolvent and revealed that NMEC had failed to keep a record of assets or a register of its 2,800 suppliers.
David James, the City troubleshooter named last week as the new executive chairmen of the NMEC, said the 100-page PwC investigation revealed a ‘black hole’ at the centre of the #758m project, whose cost has spiralled to around #830m.
The PwC investigation also revealed that NMEC had only set aside #5m to cover unexpected costs such as closure, which James said would come to #19m against a forecast of #4.5m.
James said it would be wrong to close the Dome before January, as it would add between #30m-#40m in broken contract and redundancy costs.
The revelations raise serious questions over the role of original dome auditors Ernst & Young, but James has refused to comment on the firm’s work.
Last week the #47m grant by the Commission to keep the Dome afloat sparked widespread outcry and raised the amount of lottery money sunk into the Dome to #628m.
Board members of the Millennium Commission at a London meeting chaired last Tuesday by Culture Secretary Chris Smith voted to support the controversial grant on condition that NMEC chairman David Quarmby stepped down, only five months after he replaced sacked BA chief executive Bob Ayling.
A shake-up of NMEC management has wrestled financial control from Spence to James and high-profile chief executive Pierre-Yves Gerbeau.
In a survey conducted last month by Accountancy Age in conjunction with Reed Accountancy Personnel, six out of 10 FDs called for the Dome to be closed because of its financial difficulties.
Dome minister Lord Falconer last week insisted he was not to blame for the site’s failing finances in the face of mounting calls for his resignation.
The National Audit Office is to publish its own investigation into the Dome’s financial performance in November.
FDs call for Dome closure
NAO’s Dome probe
WHO’S WHO AT THE DOME
Ernst & Young – original auditors for the New Millennium Experience Company.
PricewaterhouseCoopers – responsible for a damning report into the state of finances at the Dome.
Deloitte & Touche – auditors for the Millennium Commission, who in January were brought in to monitor attendance figures.
National Audit Office – due in November to release its own report into NMEC finances.
Neil Spence – NMEC finance director since 1998
David James – troubleshooter who has assumed full control of financial affairs.
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