Grenfell sales manager promised ‘very nice meal’ for making deal with cladding firm

  • london
  • September 10, 2020
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A commercial manager working on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment was promised a ‘very nice meal’ after securing a deal with the building’s cladding supplier.

Mark Harris, who worked in sales for construction company Harley Facades, told an inquiry he had a ‘close relationship’ with cladding manufacturer Alcoa, now Arconic, and supplier CEP. However, he denied there were any ‘incentives’ to use Reynobond aluminium composite material (ACM) panels in the refurbishment.

In an email exchange from June 2014, Mr Harris had been thanked by Geoff Blades of CEP for his business. Mr Blades had written: ‘Mark, all I can say is that you’ll be taken out for a very nice meal very soon somewhere very nice.’

The email also included Deborah French of Alcoa. Mr Harris told the inquiry on Thursday: ‘Debbie had been really good, proactive in providing information.

‘You build up that relationship with somebody and you start to trust them so she’d been very good for us.’

Mr Harris made his comments during an inquiry into the 2017 fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people and more than 100 families homeless.

The ACM Reynobond PE panels used in Grenfell’s cladding system had a heat combustion akin to diesel and close to lighter fluid, and possessed a high-calorific value compared with other construction materials, the hearing was told.

The inquiry heard there had also been no formal contract made between Harley Facades and build contractor Rydon, but a scope of works was agreed for the job in July 2014 for around £2,600,000.

Mr Harris said Harley Facades was not ‘influential’ in choosing Reynobond for the project. He went on: ‘I think we were part of a process… If the specification for zinc had held then the contract value would have been much higher.

‘There’s no interest to Harley in having a much lesser contract value, it was the client budget that drove it away from that so we were just being helpful.’

The inquiry heard Rydon submitted a £9,200,000 quote to complete the Grenfell Tower revamp, but the client, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), then told them it needed to save a further £800,000 on the project.

This resulted in a process of ‘value engineering’ to get the job done at a cheaper cost, the inquiry was told.

Rydon had also made a pricing error in its submission, requiring it to find another £212,000, which it sought to do by passing altered cladding figures to the TMO in order to take ‘some of the savings for themselves’ and cover the error, the inquiry heard.

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