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03Feb94 UK: EDITORIAL - THE COST OF CUTTING CORNERS - QUALITY AND CONSULTING ENGINEERS.

The Association of Consulting Engineers claims small but significant victories in its campaign to have tenders for consultants judged on rather wider criteria than price alone. The Scottish Office and Guildford council have adopted guidelines which take into account ability as well as price.This is good news and it will be even better if the wider criteria concept is applied to contractors as well.There are encouraging signs elsewhere that public sector bodies are becoming more sensible about how they buy their projects. The Department of Transport let the first 'whole life costed' road scheme towards the end of last year. It is experimental, but it is a start.But the fact that these victories for common sense can be hailed as victories at all is testimony to the degree to which the 'cheapest is best' nonsense infiltrated public sector purchasing in recent years.It started as a reasonable idea to reduce the scope for public bodies being taken for a ride. But it has, at times, descended into an unseemly scramble, as contractors vied to outdo each other in cutting prices and cutting corners, none of which has much to do with providing value for money, which is what customers of all kinds really want. CONSTRUCTION NEWS