Exclusive: Claims contained in Turner & Townsend legal challenge to the government’s massive public sector consultants framework

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Turner & Townsend has accused rival firms of using “price manipulation” to win places on the government’s £750m public sector consultants’ framework.

Turner & Townsend (T&T) has lodged a legal challenge in the High Court against the award of the troubled four-year Project Management and Full Design Team Services framework by publicly-owned procurement body UK SBS.

T&T was among a number of major firms to lose out on places on the UK lots of the framework, which was provisionally awarded to more than a dozen firms in June.

Neither UK SBS nor Crown Commercial Service are considering re-running this procurement

Cabinet office spokesperson

In the court papers, seen by Building, T&T demands “unlimited” damages and costs, and calls for the framework award either to be thrown out, or T&T awarded places on the UK lots, or for UK SBS to “reconsider its decision on a lawful basis”.

The consultant claims “many of the winning bidders” undertook price and “scoring manipulation” in order to secure higher marks.

T&T further claims UK SBS failed to recognise and investigate the price and scoring manipulation, and failed to investigate “abnormally low” pricing.

T&T claims some of its rivals manipulated UK SBS’ system for judging pricing - which was based solely on prices submitted for consultancy services in the South-east.

T&T claims “many of the winning bidders” provided “very low prices for the South-east” and “very high upwards adjustments to those prices for regional work”. T&T said this was despite the fact “regional work ought in general give rise to lower costs than work in the South-east”. T&T said: “It would then be possible for a bidder to choose not to perform any work in the South-east region for the very low prices bid for that region”.

Pricing made up 30% of the overall mark, with quality criteria making up the remaining 70%.

T&T’s evidence against bidders it suspects of price and scoring manipulation was contained in a confidential annex to the court papers not seen by Building.

Consultant Capita, Jacobs, Mace, Pick Everard and Mott MacDonald were among the big winners, landing spots on all four lots. According to scorecards for the UK lots seen by Building in June, Mace won all four lots on pricing.

Building is unaware of which firm or firms are the subject of T&T’s allegations.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Neither UK SBS nor the Crown Commercial Service are considering re-running this procurement.

“We are committed to awarding the Project Management and Full Design Team Services agreement once we have completed the procurement process.”

T&T, UK SBS and the winning parties declined to comment.