“AECOM – New UK Gov Dept for Absolutely Everything Capable Of Moneymaking –
incl. HS2, Crossrail, Crossrail2, Cost + Carbon Management Services for Environment Agency, and a “key project” in the UK’s nuclear deterrence programme” –
– is a large US multinational
Nigel Pearce, OX29 4YA, July 2019
Not many people have noticed, but a new UK Government Department has been created. It’s called the Department for Absolutely Everything Capable Of Moneymaking (AECOM).
The trouble is, AECOM is not a public sector body; but a US-based multinational company with 87,000 employees and a worldwide network of offices, including around 30 in the UK. Its “Government Relations” office, based in Washington, DC, “represents AECOM before federal, state, local and international governments” [my italics].
If you live in Oxfordshire, you may have noticed that AECOM produced the Oxfordshire Infrastructure Study (OXIS), and has been carrying out a wide variety of work for all six local authorities in the county, including planning ‘improvements’ to the A40. In the past five years, Oxfordshire County Council alone has paid AECOM nearly £5.5 million.
In West Oxfordshire it has been carrying out consultancy work for the District Council’s Local Plan, which includes the ‘Oxfordshire Cotswolds Garden Village’, while working hand in glove with the developer of the village.
But Oxfordshire is small beer for AECOM. It has been chosen by the Midlands Highways Alliance (MHA) – an alliance of over 20 county and other local councils – as one of the MHA’s “partners” from the private sector. (Carillion was still mentioned on the MHA website as one of these partners when I last looked, so presumably they are all thoroughly trustworthy.)
In 2015, AECOM was awarded the “single supplier framework” for the MHA’s Professional Services Partnership 2 (described as an upside down framework with one supplier and multiple clients), and has just had that award renewed for a further three or four years. Sounds a bit like a monopoly to me. It has also won a considerable amount of other local authority, non-highway work.
But that’s nothing, really. According to Private Eye, AECOM has had significant input into those grossly over-budget projects, Crossrail and HS2. Despite that, it announced last December that it had won the Institute of Economic Development’s “greatest economic impact award” for its work on Crossrail 2. As part of that work, it “created a bespoke impact model to assess more than 2,400 development sites along the proposed route, and provided “evidence” for how “an additional 200,000 homes and jobs could be triggered across the Crossrail 2 impact areas assuming supportive land use planning policy”.
Among the projects it has acquired so far in 2019 are Cost and Carbon Management Services (among other things) for the Environment Agency, and a “key project” in the UK’s nuclear deterrence programme.
But perhaps the best plum of all is its appointment to the Homes England four-year Multidisciplinary Framework 2019–2023, to deliver the latter’s “accelerated supply” of new homes in England. Apparently, this appointment “builds on AECOM’s considerable history of supporting Homes England through the delivery of a broad range of multidisciplinary services”.
AECOM is a Fortune 500 company, currently number 157 in the List. There may be good reasons for this recognition, including competence (although if it’s anything like the Big Four accountancy firms in the UK, that’s not guaranteed). But surely the chief criterion of success in this context is the ability to maximise profits – in our case at UK taxpayers’ expense. AECOM’s revenue was over $20 billion in fiscal year 2018, to which we taxpayers seem to have contributed substantially.
In a press release to celebrate its continued listing in the Fortune 500, AECOM boasted: “See how we deliver what others can only imagine.” No doubt others would love to have the opportunity to deliver rather than just imagine, but perhaps they cannot get anywhere near the government pot in the face of AECOM’s uncanny ability to win so many contracts. Either that or AECOM is now a de facto UK government department.