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Tuesday22 July 2014

Dump tick-box procurement system, Cabe urges MPs

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Design Council Cabe proposes database of standard PQQ answers

Design Council Cabe is calling for the current tick-box procurement system to be dropped and replaced with a code of practice that gives smaller firms a chance.

Its proposals are contained in evidence submitted to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment which is holding an inquiry into construction procurement.

Cabe’s report, written by Rab Bennetts, argues that the current system penalises smaller practices yet also fails to deliver value for money.

It proposes a Code of Practice for Design Procurement in the Built Environment the key features of which would include:

* Expert design advice for the client body.

* An updated database of information on all registered firms that would include information on their financial standing, insurance verification and health and safety policies so the actual procurement process can focus on project-specific issues.

* A selection criteria directly reflecting the values of the project, varying for, say, a theatre and a prison.

* Ensuring smaller firms or those without experience of a particular typology are not automatically excluded. The code would stress the importance of avoiding a requirement that can only be met by one group or size of firm.

* The fee for design services to be assessed with reference to a firm’s resources and staffing levels to ensure it is realistic.

Cabe has offered to organise a working party to develop the code in more detail.

Bennetts said: “Many highly appropriate designers are falling victim to over-complex or inconsistent selection methods. 

“There is also widespread concern over punitive levels of waste for the industry as a whole. The consequences for the UK economy are considerable, with loss of work for the most able firms, low investment in design and construction innovation and, most importantly, the delivery of buildings that fail to match up to the initial ambition.”

He argued that it was not the EU that was at fault but the local interpretation of the procurement rules within the UK.

“Design Council Cabe’s understanding is that there is nothing in the current or proposed EU legislation that prevents the procurement process within the UK being made more effective, provided the selection criteria are advertised in advance and the tender process is both transparent and auditable,” he said.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I strongly support the recommendations and believe if implemented by the government will lead to better buildings with less waste, more fairly procured.

    A petition of experienced parties should be started to add weight to these recommendations.

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  • I fully endorse the review and the recommendations which have been published by The Design Council CABE. They have again underlined that the methods used for the procurement of architects and other designers within the construction sector are disproportionate and are not fit for purpose.

    Their detailed work shares many of the same conclusions offered in the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland's 'Public Procurement in Scotland: Building a Better Future?' which was published in December. The RIAS underlined serious systemic problems which are having an enormous adverse impact on our built environment, our economy and the management of risk. The written examination of bidders is currently not shedding enough focus on those with appropriate skills, talent and empathy, whilst at the same time the accompanying tender system is promoting a culture of 'cheapest is best'.

    That mindset is damaging, what legacy will it leave for our children?

    It is a mindset which is particularly perplexing when guidance, related to the selection of architects and their design teams, from HM Treasury clearly states that design costs are a tiny proportion of overall project costs and more pertinently life time costs. Their guidance goes on to state that great care should therefore be taken in the selection of appropriate design teams because their skills should be used to drive down life time costs, thereby realising far far greater savings compared to the marginal savings and indeed potential risks created by apparently cheep fees.

    The Design Council CABE proposals go a long way to suggesting a means by which these problems can be rectified.

    Those problems are the number one challenge in the construction industry. That point and the huge problems encountered across the country were emphatically underlined by both public and private sector delegates at the recent RIAS Procurement Conference. The mood from the floor was that a continuation of the status quo was simply not good enough and that fundamental improvements must be brought forward. I and other speakers therefore welcomed the announcement by Alex Neil MSP Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure & Capital Investment of a review of procurement in the construction sector.

    I am sure that the proposals brought forward by the Design Council CABE should inform that review.

    Willie Watt
    Partner Nicoll Russell Studios

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