Government urged to scrap regional schools framework
Smaller builders are now calling on Government to scrap the framework, which came into force last July, or instruct local authorities to procure works under £5m separately on phase 2 of the priority schools programme.
A new report scrutinising the EFA procurement process claims it failed to adhere to Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Notices and wider regulations seeking to promote SMEs.
The National Federation of Builders, which commissioned the report, has called on the process to be re-run because of short-commings in the process.
The Regional Contractors Framework was introduced after the EFA first set up a National Contractors Framework back in November 2013 to deliver major priority schools projects .
After lobbying by National Federation of Builders and regional construction companies such as Tolent and Surgo, the EFA agreed to establish a series of regional frameworks to access “the best [contractors] to do smaller jobs”.
One of the key stated goals was to enable SMEs and regional construction companies to successfully bid for a role on the framework, which has contract call-off values are expected to start from as little as £200,000.
But main contractors ended up dominating the lots, with only one regional contractor, Conlon Construction, making the panel on all six lots.
The report points out that one of key blocks to opening the process to firms was a £25m turnover threshhold for work in the area.
This figure was low enough that all of the UK’s top 20 companies could bid for the work. At the same time, it was unnecessarily high for a framework where the average call-off was expected to be £2m.
While this approach was legal in that it adhered to the Public Procurement Directive, it directly contradicts Procurement Policy Notice 02/13 which clearly states that: a potential provider should not be deselected on the basis of turnover size alone, claims the report.
SME’s who attempted to overcome this hurdle by establishing consortia were hampered by the fact that the procurement team set an additional financial threshold which was that consortium members must have had an annual turnover in excess of £10m.
These unnecessary thresholds, meant only five regional companies made it as far as the invitation to tender stage and of these only three were SMEs.
Post date: 19 Mar 2015
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