End of prequals for small contracts could ramp costs

Grant Prior 13 years ago
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Government plans to make public procurement easier for smaller contractors could create new problems.

That’s the warning from civil engineers following confirmation from David Cameron and Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude that reforms are in the pipeline.

Key changes include removing the need for pre-qualification for departmental contracts valued at under £100,000, creating a single portal for all procurement opportunities; and recommendations for dramatically reducing the cost and time taken to carry out Competitive Dialogue procedures.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association director of external affairs Alasdair Reisner said: “While CECA has long highlighted the inefficiencies created by poor procurement of construction, earlier efforts at reform in this area have failed to achieve real change.

“As such we are pleased that the drive to reform public sector procurement has backing from right at the top of Government”.

But contractors are concerned that, in trying to reduce the pre-qualification burden on small companies, the Government may actually be piling on additional cost.

Reisner said: “For many years CECA has campaigned to reduce the burden unnecessary pre-qualification places on contractors, who are forced to waste time and resources filling in a range of different pre-qualification questionnaires in order to bid for contracts.

“Today’s announcement suggests at least a partial victory in that campaign, lifting this burden for companies bidding for many small contracts.

“However we are concerned that the complete removal of pre-qualification will turn bidding for such work into a free-for-all.

“Under such circumstance all bidders would have to expend considerable resources preparing full bids, rather than those who have no chance of winning being weeded out at an early stage.

“Clearly this situation threatens to increase, rather than decrease the burden on small firms.

“For this reason CECA is in favour of standardisation of – rather than removal of – pre-qualification.

“Contractors should be able to complete a single standardised pre-qualification questionnaire, which can then be used by clients to determine whether they are suitable to bid for a given contract.”

“CECA will continue to work with other industry bodies to encourage the roll out of the Government’s own PAS 91 standard pre-qualification questionnaire for construction.

“By doing so we can help cut into the estimated £500 million wasted each year through this unneeded pre-qualification bureaucracy.”

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