Government procurement practices found wanting
Procurement practices on Government projects have improved only marginally over the last five years, according to an extensive survey among specialist engineering contractors by the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group. The survey sought feedback on the extent to which best practice on Government projects has permeated along the supply chain and followed a similar survey in 2000. There was a small improvement in satisfaction with tendering. 14% of firms stated that most tenders were being assessed on quality as well as on price, compared to 9% five years ago. There was as significant fall in levels of satisfaction over contractual terms, with 38% expressing satisfaction with contractual terms on most projects compared with 48% on the previous survey. Payment delays and abuse are a serious issue. 57% of firms experienced these problems on at least half their projects, rising to 62% for firms with turnover from £500 000 to £1 million. Only 7% of firms stated that they had been appointed early on most projects. 44% indicated that their health-and-safety record had not been considered on any projects they had been involved in. A report has been sent to Des Brown, Treasury Chief Secretary on procurement practices on Government projects. Trevor Hursthouse, SEC Group chairman, comments, ‘The undoubted commitment of Government clients to improving procurement and contractual practices within the supply chain still has to be translated into action. SEC Group has produced an action plan for the Office of Government Commerce and all Government clients. Among its recommendations are the following. • OGC to develop a best-practice charter, adherence to which would be a condition of selection of all firms engaged on Government work. • Project bank accounts to be established for all projects coming on stream. • OGC, or all procurers, to establish a review panel to deal with complaints of poor practice. • All Government procurers to outlaw the use of bespoke conditions of contract down the supply chain. • The practice of retentions to eradicated by 2007 on all Government projects.