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Public frameworks to be scrutinised

Exclusive: Public sector frameworks would have to undergo wide-ranging assessments to acquire accreditation under a shake-up outlined in a leaked Cabinet Office report.

The report for the Government Construction Board, seen by Construction News, also cites efficiencies in public sector frameworks.

The working group behind the report collated evidence from government departments and the National Improvement and Efficiency Partnership on public sector framework effectiveness.

It recommended that the government introduce measures to assess new frameworks against a wide range of criteria before giving them an accreditation mark to prove they can run effectively.

These would include measuring SME access, building information modelling and reductions in costs.

The working group, drawn from the procurement and lean client task group, held evidence sessions with organisations including the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, and the National Specialist Contractors’ Council. Kier is listed as the only individual contractor represented.

The report lists benefits of existing frameworks including efficiency savings, reductions in cost and legal claims, and a higher proportion of spend on SMEs.

But CN understands concerns were raised during the working group’s research that the evidence was being heavily weighted towards representing a “positive picture” of frameworks.

Several insiders told CN they were unhappy that while risks to frameworks were acknowledged in the report, there was a lack of evidence about the costs to the industry of ineffective frameworks.

The working group, which included senior civil servants from across a range of government departments, has published an extensive evidence base on the success of frameworks to date.

Among the benefits listed (see box) are that 100 per cent of Ministry of Justice projects have a final account sum that is within budget, and there have been £300m of savings to date across NIEP frameworks.

In addition, there have been no claims on the Ministry of Defence Single Living Accommodation Modernisation framework in nine years.

The report notes industry concerns about frameworks, after Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude (pictured) told CN last year he thought the government “will be moving away from them”.

One group member said: “The use of frameworks is a challenging issue. But we believe [the report] provides a useful guide on what a good future framework looks like.”

The frameworks effectiveness working group was established to respond to an objective in the Government Construction Strategy, published in May 2011.

The report sets out the features of an effective framework, which include agreeing strategies on factors such as SME engagement and BIM.

It encourages simplifying the procurement process, while also providing mechanisms for greater client influence over negotiations with the supply chain.

In operation, the group recommends demonstrating value for money through cost benchmarking and targeting, early engagement of the supply chain and implementing BIM and whole-life cost assessment in the design process.

Savings highlighted in the report

  • £300m savings to date across NIEP frameworks, £130m savings on MoJ frameworks since 2008 and £38m savings on PfS framework contracts let to date
  • NIEP consultancy fees cost 9-13 per cent less than industry comparators. MoJ frameworks have saved £6.3m on consultant fee proposals since April 2011. 100 per cent of ProCure21+ schemes are delivered to the guaranteed maximum price
  • Zero litigation on ProCure 21 and ProCure 21+ schemes to date, saving approximately £65m
  • On average 85 per cent of NIEP framework subcontractors are SMEs, with 73 per cent of construction contract work spent with SMEs
  • 397 SMEs listed in supply chains of MoJ contractors with £1.3bn spent with SMEs
  • MoD SLAM employs 286 SMEs, with more than 200 first tier SMEs registered on the P21+ framework


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