Capita, which runs the list in a public–private partnership with the DETR, said it had begun a series of informal meetings with Achilles, which provides database systems for construction procurement and manages the Construction Clients Charter, the Confederation of Construction Clients' list of clients.
Constructionline marketing co-ordinator John Parkes would not be drawn on details but said the two firms were discussing a number of options to improve the service.
He said: "We are talking to a number of firms but Achilles is the largest of them. It is about how their system could work with Constructionline. It is literally in the very early stages. Obviously, talks will progress but nothing has been agreed or decided yet." It is thought that details of a tie-up between the two could be announced within months. Parkes said Capita had no plans to hand over its contract to run the service, which has three years left to run.
Achilles chief strategy officer Paul Throgstad said it made sense for the firms to discuss their initiatives.
He said: "We are working together to recognise each other's role in the industry. It makes sense to keep abreast of what the other is doing." Throgstad acknowledged that the Construction Clients Charter and Constructionline could be gunning for the same customers, but said the two schemes were totally separate.
The move follows increasing criticism of Constructionline's management. One industry source said: "I am not sure it has the intellectual capability to manage this kind of scheme." Fewer than 9000 companies have signed up. Constructionline set itself a target of 25,000 members by 2001.
Meanwhile, Capita has embarked on discussions with the Office of Government Commerce in a bid to boost public sector support.
Although 900 clients have registered with Constructionline, trade associations and consultants have complained that not enough major public clients are using it, or that they still use their own approved lists. Trade associations are also being urged to encourage their members to sign up.