Government slammed for focus on lowest price bids

Grant Prior 4 months ago
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The government has been slammed for prioritising cost rather than quality when it comes to outsourcing and contracting.

A damning report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee in the wake of Carillion’s collapse said found “government’s overriding priority for outsourcing is spending as little money as possible while forcing contractors to take unacceptable levels of financial risk.”

It also blasted government for getting its numbers wrong when awarding deals.

The committee said: “This approach has been made more damaging by the fact that the information the government uses to inform the outsourcing process can be either incomplete or simply incorrect.

“The government must be aware of this: it has written contracts that force contractors to pay out when it gets its own data wrong and has been known to forego performance penalties in the initial phases of contracts.”

The report attacks the whole outsourcing process and PFI contracts.

The committee said: “Contractors told us that the government was known to prioritise cost over all other factors in procurements, driving prices down to below the cost of the services they were asking firms to provide.

“Worse, the government was unable to provide significant evidence for the basic assertion behind outsourcing: that it provides better services for less public money, or a rationale for why or how it decides to outsource a service.

“This was especially true for PFI. Shockingly, the Government admitted to the Committee that the “entire PFI structure is to keep the debt of the balance sheet.”

Chair of PACAC, Sir Bernard Jenkin MP, said: “It is staggering that the Government has attempted to push risks that it does not understand onto contractors, and has so misunderstood its costs.

“It has accepted bids below what it costs to provide the service, so that the contract has had to be renegotiated.

“The Carillion crisis itself was well-managed, but it could happen again unless lessons are learned about risk and contract management and the strengths and weaknesses of the sector.

“The government must use this moment as an opportunity to learn how to effectively manage its contracts and relationship with the market.”

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