The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) carried out the year-long study into its members’ use of frameworks. Key findings from the members included that 71% frequently reported less than anticipated workloads; 56% reported that unnecessary second competitions are common; and 54% said frameworks frequently favoured lowest cost over quality.
In order to start the drive forward towards best practice, CECA has worked with its members and others in industry to develop a series of recommendations for infrastructure clients.
CECA director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “CECA’s research report on frameworks stems from our previous work on the challenges of procurement as a whole. Over the past few years, our members have indicated that while frameworks can be a useful tool to organise and deliver civil engineering projects, they do not always work effectively. There is a substantial programme of work coming forwards in the next few years. In order to ensure smooth and efficient delivery of the world-class infrastructure we so desperately need, it is vital that it is procured as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.
“We are therefore keen to start a discussion on how we can make frameworks work for everyone. Over the coming year we will be sharing this document with the wider infrastructure community and others, and we hope that our recommendations will become incorporated by our customers and wider government.”
The recommendations put forward by CECA are:
- frameworks to be based around a clear valued work bank with a commitment to deliver work in the framework;
- once established, frameworks must be used by customers;
- frameworks to deliver a specified minimum value of work for all participants with subsequent work distributed on quality of tender performance and delivery;
- the number of companies on a framework should be proportionate and balanced in relation to the framework’s value and the number and type of projects available;
- customers should refrain from using multiple frameworks for greater flexibility which comes at the expense of increased uncertainty for the supply chain;
- more use should be made of limited requests for tenders from a select number of suppliers, contractors or service providers in order to reduce the time and cost of the selection process;
- framework operators should only consider the use of mini competitions if there is a clear commercial reason for doing so;
- frameworks must recognise SME specialisms and expertise;
- pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) for frameworks should adopt proposals being developed by industry for a single industry standard approach.
The report also discusses the key characteristics of well-managed frameworks. It points out that one of the key aims of framework agreements is to realise better value for money through economies of scale by aggregating projects into work banks or programmes of work. This enables suppliers to plan and use their resources more efficiently, including investment in new plant, equipment and systems. Well-structured frameworks can deliver further efficiencies through sharing best practice and facilitating early involvement of specialists in the design process to develop optimal solutions.
If the framework is not opened up to external competition, contractors that have successfully secured a place can focus solely on delivery. As such they gain a greater understanding of a client’s business.
One of the benefits of a multi-supplier framework is security: clients can be reassured that others will be capable of delivering the work if one supplier runs into difficulty.