The Construction Confederation is seeking a meeting with the Treasury to redefine public sector procurement rules, writes Sarah Richardson.
The aim is to improve the performance of public sector clients, in particular the behaviour of some councils, which contractors claim has contributed to the tender malpractice under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).
It is understood that the confederation is in touch with civil servants over a meeting with Angela Eagle, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, to discuss the definition and enforcement of best practice in procurement by central and local government.
The move comes as the OFT prepares to deliver its verdict on 112 firms that have been accused of breaching competition law.
Most of these cases involve cover pricing, which occurs when a firm overbids for a job it does not want to win. Contractors have complained that councils encourage the practice by threatening to drop firms from future lists if they do not tender for jobs.
We want to make sure that a situation like the OFT inquiry does not happen again
In some cases, councils have to solicit a certain number of bids for a job, and ask contractors to provide cover prices to do so.
A confederation spokesperson said: “We don’t want to wait until the OFT’s investigation is completed to get issues like this sorted. We want to make sure that a situation like this does not happen again.”
The move comes a week after Simon Williams, head of the OFT’s cartel investigations, acknowledged that he could not prove that tender malpractice had inflated contract prices. The watchdog had suggested that cover pricing and bid rigging may have added up to 10% to tenders.
• The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has voted to leave the Construction Confederation. The BWF will remain a member until 31 December 2009, but will then be an independent organisation.