Cabe backs RIBA in procurement battle
Design Council Cabe has entered the fight to overhaul the procurement process, which it admits has been a “besetting problem” for architects.
The move by the charity has spurred the profession to present a united front. And its chairman Paul Finch has vowed to work with the RIBA “to do whatever we can to help”.
Finch told BD: “We support the initiative RIBA is taking on this. We need to address the faultline in thinking about procurement which is where the initial capital cost takes precedence over everything else.”
Also playing a key role is Rab Bennetts, who earlier this year called the procurement process “insane” after his practice lost out on a job to plan a cultural centre in Manchester, despite being awarded perfect marks for its design.
‘We need to address the faultline in thinking about procurement’
He is the latest architect appointed to the RIBA’s procurement task force and has drawn up a report on the flaws in procurement for the board of trustees at Design Council Cabe.
Bennetts and RIBA president Angela Brady hope to make joint recommendations by the end of the year and are confident they can make a strong economic case.
“Someone has got to tell the government that it’s not working properly,” said Bennetts.
“I spoke to a lot of younger architects at the Stirling Prize ceremony who said they just don’t enter Ojeus because there’s no point — they never get through the first round,” he added.
“Yet a small, highly motivated firm is easily capable of doing a £5 million building and would think of it as their most important project. But if the criteria imposed a big firm you’d get their B or C team. That’s not a good way to manage risk.”
He added that it was also bad for UK PLC if small practices’ growth was stifled.
Walter Menteth, chairman of the RIBA task force, said they would work with the Construction Industry Council as well as RIAS, RSAW and Design Council Cabe to seek the “widest possible industry buy-in”.
Willie Watt, who set up an e-petition which has attracted nearly 600 signatures, will be addressing a Scottish procurement conference later this month. He sits on the RIAS and RIBA task forces.
“The fundamental message is it’s costing too much and that’s a message politicians will listen to at the moment ,” he said.
To sign the petition, go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/273
The real cost of ojeu bids
Procurement of the smallest Ojeu project can actually cost the UK more than twice its value, said Willie Watt, founder of the Save Money — Streamline Procurement e-petition.
For example, a project worth £130,000 — the threshold at which a design project must be advertised through Ojeu — can cost the public sector £70,000 to assess and architects £250,000 to draw up a bid.
“The system is so complex the public sector feels it can’t rely on a single person doing the assessments so it’s quite common to have five assessors,” said the partner at Dundee-based Nicoll Russell Studios.
“If you have 100 PQQ questions marked by five people and there are 60 or 70 bidders, it runs away with the money pretty quickly.
“You can do the maths, but this is not an effective use of money, energy or talent. It’s mad.”
The National Housing Federation estimates procurement costs its members £30 million a year, a sum that could be used to obtain £450 million worth of private finance to develop new affordable homes.