Ferries due to be completed nearly two years ago could cost the Scottish taxpayer £250 million when they are finished, a Holyrood committee has heard.
The two vessels were to be built by the Port Glasgow shipyard Ferguson Marine and operated by CalMac.
Speaking at an evidence session in the inquiry into the problems surrounding the ships, Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) chief executive Kevin Hobbs confirmed costs could far exceed the initial £97 million price tag.
Mr Hobbs said CMAL is not contractually obliged to pay the extra sum.
Both ships, 801 and 802, were due to be in operation in 2018 but delays attributed to “mismanagement” at the yard by former finance secretary Derek Mackay pushed the dates back.
Following the shipyard’s collapse into administration – and subsequent rescue by Scottish ministers in August last year – the extent of the problems became clearer, leading Mr Mackay to call for the inquiry to be set up at the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
Questioned by committee convener Edward Mountain, Mr Hobbs confirmed the figure could be as high as £250 million, when the initial cost is taken with a £45 million Scottish Government loan and the £110 million estimate from the appointed turnaround director Tim Hair.
He added: “We will pay £97 million for those vessels, that’s what we’ve signed up to. Someone has to pay for it but CMAL isn’t.”
Mr Mountain replied: “No, the Scottish taxpayer is.”
CMAL also accused the former independent adviser to the Scottish Government Luke van Beek of signing off a payment to Ferguson Marine for £30 million of work that had not been completed.
In a submission to the committee before the appearance of Mr Hobbs and director of vessels Jim Anderson, CMAL said: “It appears to CMAL that Mr van Beek personally sanctioned the drawdown of £30 million public funds against designated progress events that were never fulfilled by the shipyard.”
Mr Anderson said he was “gobsmacked” when he heard the allegations.
Previous evidence from former Ferguson Marine director Jim McColl described problems in the relationship between the yard and CMAL as being at fault for the delays to the ships.
While the directors accepted there was an issue with the relationship, they said it was not as bad as Mr McColl stated before the committee.
Mr Hobbs said: “We don’t believe that it broke down to the extent that was claimed.
“There were two levels of engagement, there are weekly and monthly meetings in the yard and they carried on all the way until the middle of August 2019 – when the yard went into administration.”
Mr Hobbs said the relationship shifted when they were “dragged” into an office and “read the riot act” by senior management in the spring of 2017 at the yard for saying the work was not going fast enough.
The manager, who was not named by Mr Hobbs, is said to have told them: “You keep saying that we’re not performing … we guarantee we’re going to deliver these ships in May 2018 and July 2018.”
Mr Hobbs said there was “no chance” that would happen.
The chief executive said a claim from Ferguson Marine for £17.5 million in extra funding came a few months later.