Institution ‘baffled’ after online bidding system is used by only 50 projects in 15 months

An investigation has been begun into why an electronic tendering system that was launched 15 months ago to make procurement more efficient has been shunned by the industry.

The system was set up by the RICS in October 2007. Stephen Timms, the construction minister at the time, said it pointed the way to a “leaner and more efficient” industry. However, it has so far handled 50 projects out of a possible 25,000.

Joe Martin, executive director of the RICS’ Building Cost Information Service, which manages the system, said the figures were “baffling”.

The RICS says the program, which allows the bidding process to be managed online, could help companies cut tendering costs by more than 30%. “E-tendering used to cost tens of thousands of pounds, so we set one up that could be used for a project fee,” said Martin. “Hardly anyone has used it – never underestimate the power of inertia.”

God bless the RICS, but it does go off on these flights of fancy

Mike Cuthbert, Drivers Jonas

Mike Cuthbert, a partner in property consultant Drivers Jonas, poured scorn on the idea of the RICS becoming a tender provider. He said: “There are lots of well used e-tendering services. Why would anyone go to the RICS? I can’t believe that’s the main purpose of a professional institution. God bless the RICS, but it does go off on these flights of fancy.”

The institution is surveying members on their tendering methods and expects to report its findings next month.

Martin said he was confident the system could succeed and called on consultants to appreciate its benefits. He said: “Most of the projects that could benefit are QS-organised. If QSs want it to stay that way, they better get on board.”