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Bid guru sparks fury

OGC notice for procurement chief causes more anger among anti-retentions lobby

THE GOVERNMENT came under fire this week when it advertised for a £70,000-a-year procurement guru days after deciding retentions would remain a key part of public contracts.

The Office of Government Commerce, which was set up to modernise public procurement, is looking to hire a director of contract innovation - a new role which, according to the advert, 'offers tremendous scope to shape the way future central Government deals with its suppliers'.

It adds: 'You will be responsible for developing new forms of commercial arrangements and advising Government departments on their choice of contractual form.'

Specialist organisations said the timing of the advert had poured salt onto the wounds opened by the Government's rejection earlier this month of calls for an end to the retentions system.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, said: 'The timing is a bit ironic, to say the least.

It is a bit rich that they are looking at this and still hanging on to adversarial practices.

'I like the words 'contract innovation' in the job title. It is the OGC's job to promote best practice among Government departments but the Government wants to keep retentions. It doesn't stack up.'

The incumbent will be required to deal with industries such as construction, IT and property. An OGC spokesman said: 'It is actually rolling up the roles of several people into one.'

He admitted the director of contract innovation's brief would not include recommending that Government departments abandon retentions.

Suzannah Nichols, chief executive of the National Specialist Contractors Council, said: 'This job is about improving best practice - and retentions are not best practice.'

The OGC was due to hold a meeting in London yesterday (Wednesday) to review progress in improving Government procurement in construction. It was also expected to announce new procurement targets.