Public sector clients would get better value if they worked directly with subcontractors rather than through main contractors
As chairman of a £30m turnover group of specialist contractors, operating almost exclusively in the public sector, the OFT investigation has particular relevance to Radway and its subsidiary companies.
Since the millennium the cost of tendering and the absence of certainty of outcome have increased. And as public sector spending has increased, new entrants with limited commercial credibility have entered the market with the inevitable impact upon prices and margins.
Clients have adopted what appears to be a low risk policy of using the main contractor route even though organisations such as ours are infinitely capable of delivering elemental work streams, including associated works, providing enhanced value at a lower cost i.e. excluding the main contractor margin.
As a result many of the contracts we have completed since the year 2000 have been for main contractors that are smaller and less experienced that us.
The main contractor philosophy - despite Egan, Latham etc - is often to deliberately exclude specialist contractors from discussions with clients. This allows them to exercise control over the total contract process by managing the expectations of clients at the expense of subcontractors.
The main contractor philosophy - despite Egan, Latham etc - is often to deliberately exclude specialist contractors from discussions with clients.
Typical examples include limited information being supplied to specialist contractors at tender stage and extremely short time-frames for tender return.
There are a number of enlightened clients who understand the benefit of working directly with specialists and we have examples of the success of this approach throughout the UK.
At Radway with over 40 years experience of public sector contracting and partnering we are pleased to be able to confirm that we have never and will never engage in cover pricing or collusion. We have a simple view that while construction in the public sector is a huge market, the community within which we operate is small and tightly knit. Our reputation is key to our ongoing success and survival.
Those organisations that engage in anti-competitive activities must suffer the consequences - our only wish is that clients consider the option of using specialists in the future rather than adopting the main contractor route. We believe that this would generate better outcomes from a project delivery and value perspective.
Bill Briggs is chairman of the Radway Group