Controversial electronic tendering measures were slammed by the industry’s leading clients at the client convention, with many saying they would not use the method to procure services.

However, several clients claimed e-tendering had offered them massive savings when bulk-buying products such as windows and doors. Ian Callaghan, construction and development director of supermarket chain Somerfield, said the method had saved his company more than 50% on flooring and up to 40% on ceiling tiles.

Peter Woolliscroft, chief executive of NHS Estates and Richard Saxon of Constructing Excellence in the Built Environment were among those who attacked the procedure, saying it perpetuated a lowest-cost culture at the expense of whole-life project value. They voiced particular concern over the use of the method for procuring installation services.

Woolliscroft said e-tendering damaged moves to introduce a culture of integrated working.

He said: “Dialogue between manufacturer, contractor and client is vital to the success of a project. Unless there is a way of achieving this electronically, for the moment we will steer clear of the process.”

E-tendering can only be used to buy something that you can totally specify

Richard Saxon

Saxon said the only role for e-tendering was to follow the Somerfield model of using it to buy products, rather than services. He said: “E-tendering can only be used to buy something that you can totally specify, otherwise there is too much risk involved.”

Somerfield’s Callaghan shared the reluctance to use the method for service components. He said: “You have to look carefully at how you contract, and separate items from their installation.”