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Contractors call for change with too many frameworks not delivering workloads

An extensive year-long study by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has discovered that frameworks are failing to deliver expected work and more than half of its members believe the agreements still frequently favour lowest cost over quality.

Findings from the report show 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.

CECA’s latest research on frameworks stems from a previous policy report on the challenges of procurement as a whole. Published in 2016, that research found that frameworks could be a useful tool to organise and deliver civil engineering projects but while also demonstrating that frameworks did not always work effectively and briefly considered some solutions.

The evidence in today’s published paper comes from an anonymised member survey, a series of workshops and research with CECA’s members along with key stakeholders.

The body says it hopes the findings can become a discussion point and best practice guide for customers, government and the wider infrastructure community.

After receiving feedback from its members, CECA has listed a series of recommendations for infrastructure clients to adhere to moving forward.

First and foremost, CECA want frameworks to be based around a clear valued work bank with a commitment to deliver work in the framework and once established, these must be used by customers.

Furthermore, it’s argued that frameworks must deliver a specified minimum value of work for all participants with subsequent work distributed on quality of tender performance and delivery. While 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.

CECA director of External Affairs, Marie-Claude Hemming, said that with the substantial programme of work planned for the next few years, it’s vital it is procured as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

“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,” she added. “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.”

Further recommendations on the operation of frameworks:

  • 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.
  • PQQs for frameworks should adopt proposals being developed by industry for a single industry standard approach.