Mar 08, 2010
The Times recently ran a story entitled ‘big contractors squeeze out the little man’ (6thFebruary 2010, page 58). It was about construction and my initial reaction was to dismiss it as yet another lobby group whinge, until my attention was grabbed by the throw away line about ‘change in procurement practices’. Reading on there were the comments about the barriers created by framework contracts, which I have already made my views clear about in previous blogs. However, they also mentioned the pre-qualification stage which is apparently bemusing so many businesses across the UK.
The Pre-qualification process used to be a detailed fact finding process which allowed potential providers to find out more about the work in hand, while at the same time allowing contracting authorities to undertake an early form of due diligence. Sadly, this common sense is no more. Across the country, this important process is being turned into a complete administrative farce as social engineers, busy bodies, tick boxers load in more questions and demand copies of policy statements so that they can demonstrate their perceived value to their employing organisation.
So, what has been the reaction to this nonsense to the private sector? For most of the big providers, they either make up the answers or maximise their use of Google search facilities to find a policy statement that they can copy and adapt for themselves. As one senior executive said to me recently, “it is all about ticking boxes so that we can get the invitation to tender”. Unfortunately for many smaller companies, they have to keep a lean ship, concentrate on doing a good job and run a day to day business. To them, the purpose of the pre-qualification stage is to ensure the potential suitability of a supplier so the provider is able to do an excellent job at optimum cost to the tax payer / share holder? What an absurd concept indeed!