Contracting for multi-million pound projects under the private finance initiative has not improved in recent years and in some respects has deteriorated, parliament’s public spending watchdog said yesterday. Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent.

A third of projects after 2003 attracted no more than two bidders compared with just 15% previously, the Commons public accounts committee reported. Competition was put at risk if a bidder subsequently dropped out or one of the bids was weak, it said.

The committee reported that average tendering time had increased from 33 to 34 months since 2004. Delays to projects had cost the taxpayer at least £67m.

Some of this delay was due to public sector teams changing the project after a single, preferred, bidder had been selected – alterations that the PFI process, in theory, should discourage.

According to the committee, 'lengthy tendering periods and high bid costs were discouraging bidders' adding 'a risk that low market interest may become a significant