The debacle calls into question the competence of the whole civil service after a cock-up at Whitehall cost the taxpayer at least £40m in refunded bid fees.
Knowing that the cost of several schools has been wasted because a Government official can’t operate a calcualtor is bad enough.
But the whole sorry episode now raises huge doubts over tender races at every level.
How many construction contracts have been awarded to the “wrong” winners?
And how can the Government lecture private contractors over efficiency when it is making such basic – and costly – mistakes?
Senior political figures are now demanding an overhaul of the civil service – but we’ve been down that route before.
If mandarins are good at one thing, it’s protecting their own backs .
Obviously there are thousands of very talented people working in public office.
But it is equally obvious that there are thousands who are not up to the job and seem protected from any sort of punishment when things go wrong.
The West Coast main line blunder has led to a few suspensions.
But will anyone be surprised if the guilty parties pitch-up at another department or retire early on a fat public pension?
The whole system is flawed because companies on the wrong end of mistakes find it nearly impossible to accuse their biggest client of bungling.
Private contractors are doing their bit to keep costs down in a world where the Government is trying to squeeze every penny out of the public purse.
The least the industry can expect in return is that Whitehall now gets its own house in order.