The third part of this blog on frameworks looks at their potential to improve the efficiency of our industry

Charles McSweeney

There is not a public sector strategy or structure to control the growth of frameworks. Procurement decisions are left to the central and local government departments (and numerous non-departmental bodies governed by the EU procurement directives) to identify what is best for them. However, there are positive signs that the Crown Commercial Service is reviewing this approach and how improvements can be made.  

The Crown Commercial Service has an opportunity to carry out spend analysis (current and future) and assess the market and consult with suppliers to design a fit-for-purpose framework structure. As each new generation of framework is let for four years the opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper does not exist. However, there is enough information, experience and knowledge available to work toward a solution that would be beneficial to all and implemented over a period of time.

Being on a successful framework can become a badge of honour and a reference in itself to the quality of the framework supplier

Future framework design would need to consider the requirements of The Public Contract Regulations 2015, which will come into force on 26 February 2015 for central government and 1 April 2015 for other public bodies. These regulations have been handed down from the EU procurement directives and incorporate requirements that have been identified in case law and procurement experiences. A number of these regulatory changes could promote positive changes in framework agreements, including:

  • Policy Promotion – Appropriate use of procurement processes to support policies such as use of SMEs, community support and training
  • Whole Life Evaluation – Life cycle costing will be expressly permitted as award criteria
  • Readiness of Tender Documentation – Contract documentation will need to be available online at the time of publishing OJEU adverts rather than just for the tender stage
  • Prior Performance Exclusions – Discretionary exclusion on the grounds of poor prior performance for up to three years.

The regulations governing the use of frameworks have been “tightened-up” and the introduction of the PCR 2015 can act as a catalyst for improvement.

Businesses will become more selective of what bidding opportunities they will target. Frameworks that can demonstrate they have a healthy project pipeline and fair call-off procedures will be more attractive. Being on a successful framework can become a badge of honour and a reference in itself to the quality of the framework supplier.

It will become easier to define between a well-managed framework and one set-up as a procurement vehicle to comply with procurement regulations. The trend for suppliers to be charged administration for the framework management is okay but only when this is factored into the overall business proposition. Frameworks need to provide value for both clients and suppliers.

Well managed frameworks have a great deal of potential for our industry. They can facilitate the introduction of new practices such as standardisation, BIM and Government Soft Landings. Benchmarking and performance measurement within and across various frameworks will help to focus our efforts on the ambitious cost and time targets of the Government Construction Strategy 2025.

Frameworks will continue to evolve and can become a key driver for industry efficiency.

Charles McSweeney is a senior director at Sweett Group