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Wednesday30 July 2014

RIBA urged to act more quickly over wasteful procurement

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Institute’s report on the issue is due to be published in May, five months after the original deadline

Architects are calling on the RIBA to speed up its report on wasteful procurement processes after a major public-sector tendering exercise was cancelled last month.

The RIBA is now due to publish its procurement report in May, five months after the deadline promised by president Angela Brady, who made reform in the area one of her key priorities.
In March, Transport for London cancelled its urban realm design framework after shortlisting practices including Pitzman Tozer and East. It will now retender for a new design panel in collaboration with the Greater London Authority.

Graeme Sutherland of Adams & Sutherland, which was on a previous urban design framework under the London Development Agency, said: “Getting work at the moment is ferocious. A lot of people will have put a lot of work into trying to get on the TfL framework. I have zero expectations of the RIBA but they should be much more pro-active in raising public awareness of the value architects are able to bring to a project.”

He added that the RIBA could play an important role in educating clients, whose inexperience is often to blame for risk-averse procurement policies.

Tom Holbrook of Fifth Studio called the cancellation of the TfL framework “pretty unfortunate”.

These processes are entirely abortive and hugely costly

Walter Menteth

Meanwhile, the RIBA hosted a round-table this week to gather industry views about procurement, before finalising its report.

Walter Menteth, chair of the RIBA’s procurement task force, admitted more action was needed. “These processes are entirely abortive, hugely costly and it’s not just for the architects it’s for the client bodies as well,” he said. “It’s an absolute waste of taxpayers’ money.”

A spokeswoman for TfL said : “We do appreciate that people have put in a lot of work but we hope it hasn’t all been wasted.”

Darlington arts hub axed

Darlington Council has axed plans for an arts hub in the town after it failed to secure up to £3 million of Arts Council funding.

Russell Curtis, director at RCKa, said the council emailed him last Friday cancelling a pre-qualification questionnaire which was due to close for entries the following Monday.

“I can imagine a lot of small practices were interested,” he said.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • The issue on procurement is really very simple. The more complex the process, the larger the organisation and the more removed the client is from the purchasing the more expensive it gets.

    The current framework system is complex and alienates most companies as only large organisations can afford to enter the competition. Nimble, creative and small companies cannot get past the criteria for selection which demands a lot of 0000's for turnover. Absurdly most of the scoring relies on self assessment- for example a sexist organisation with a beautifully crafted diversity and health and safety policy will score highly. Most of the scoring criteria are on statutory requirement which you have to comply with so it is pointless judging policies- much better to look at the diversity of the organisation and its record at meeting payments and staff turnover.

    There is no reason why consultant fees for government work should not be fixed so that the real competition is on the design, performance and delivery. Those who are making the selection need to be experienced and skilled at looking at the submissions so that it is not a meaningless tick box exercise and innovation can be understood.

    Without an intelligent client we will continue to have unintelligent processes for procurement. Refining the procedure that is in place at the moment will only make matters worse. The aspiration that government work (40% of construction) should be farmed out to half a dozen large contracting organisations will be a disaster. The system needs to change not enhanced.

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  • The lack of comments her suggest a lack of interest in RIBA. Long live ARB

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  • JBurden

    I feel it will be very difficult to persuade large or public sector client from the familiar comforting names on their framework agreements.

    Perhaps with a bit of (sorry!) positive discrimination, there could be process whereby smaller practices can build up their expertise until they can challenge for a place on the frameworks by demonstrating they have the skills to deliver these types of projects.

    Allocating a small percentage of work within all major projects to smaller practices could provide a door in to the future big hitters and help prevent future stagnation and monopoly. These smaller practices would be chosen through interviews and competitions and put on a temporary mini framework with the aim of giving them a genuine path to expansion.

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