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Prime contracting pioneered by Defence Estates could be a model for the future Top clients honing procurement ideas

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LEADING construction clients are putting the final touches to a scheme that would overhaul the procurement process.

Clients, including NHS Estates, BT and the Highways Agency, will meet monthly in forums called Benchmarking Clubs, with the first taking place before Christmas.

The initiative is being driven by Defence Estates, the procurement arm of the Ministry of Defence, and is the brainchild of its quality director, Clive Cain.

Mr Cain said: 'Clients need to talk to each other and learn from their experiences. Clients have to change the way they procure.'

He wants the meetings to be between grass roots representatives rather than chief executives.

Mr Cain said: 'The clubs will be a forum where ideas can be swapped.

We will be able to benchmark best practice and locate best practice elsewhere.'

The move follows a series of highlevel meetings between Defence Estates and other clients, including NHS Estates, about its prime contracting initiative. Defence Estates has also been talking to transport and logistics firm TNTabout its working methods, some of which could be incorporated into prime contracting.

Mr Cain also revealed that a second conference on prime contracting, in which a single company assumes sole responsibility for a project, would be held in March, at the Barbican Centre in London.

It will discuss progress on prime contracting developments and will include a debate on the payment conditions Defence Estates has drawn up for the initiative.

Defence Estates will pay a prime contractor only when it has paid its subcontractors. But consultants hoping to become prime contractors claim they do not have the cash reserves to pay their subbies before they get paid. Mr Cain brushed off their complaints, saying: 'They can organise their cashflow any way they want.'