What’s new and noteworthy over the last few weeks in the world of public procurement?

No signal

The bane of waste in public procurement – the National Audit Office (NAO) – has again uncovered substantial cost overruns and delays in a large-scale project: the Emergency Services Network. Already expected to cost £9.3 billion – almost 50% over budget – the NAO expressed concern that further delays to the network’s completion are possible.

The network was originally intended to go live this year although this was after an earlier delay that resulted in the whole project being reappraised in 2017, at which point various remedial measures were enacted such as contracts being renegotiated and changes made to it’s management.

The existing radio network – Airwave – will now have to be in place until the revised completion date of the project in 2022, at an additional cost of £1.4 billion.

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No Need for Speed

More criticism has been directed at the government on the subject of High Speed 2, this time by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Their new report on the largest infrastructure project in Europe has questioned government assurances that the project is on budget and on schedule.

In January the former chairman of HS2 Ltd indicated to the Committee that costs were spiralling out of control, but the Department for Transport denies that this is the case. The report highlighted the risk that any significant cost overruns on Phase 1 of the project (connecting London with Birmingham by 2027) could result in Phase 2 (completing the route to Manchester and Leeds by 2033) being scaled back or even cancelled completely.

One potential solution to the danger of spiralling budgets put forward in the report is to lower the speed of the trains – currently planned to be over 200 miles per hour at maximum velocity – which would help to simplify the construction phase.

Read more from The Independent

Read the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report

No Nationalised Grid

The Labour Party has proposed the nationalisation of National Grid with the stated aim of starting a “Green Industrial Revolution” that would simultaneously lower fuel bills, stimulate economic activity, and combat climate change.

Against the backdrop of global climate protests, they are also proposing a large-scale solar panel installation programme for social housing stock. However, National Grid itself doesn’t seem too keen on the plan, with chief executive John Pettigrew saying that it would “delay the huge amount of progress” being made in the shift towards sustainable power generation and that the policy is not “in the interests” of customers.

Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives aren’t keen on nationalisation either, with Chris Philp MP saying that Labour has no credible plan as to how to pay for their policy and that “more borrowing and tax hikes would be inevitable”. But will either of these parties have enough seats to have a say either way come the next general election? It may be up to Nigel…

Read more from BBC News

Top tenders

Prior Information Notice from NHS Supply Chain for Cardiology, Radiology, Vascular and Endoscopy Products worth between £400 – £800 million

Framework Agreement from LGSS / Cambridgeshire County Council for Archaeological Fieldworks worth between £4 – £6 million

Dynamic Purchasing System from the Construction Industry Training Board for endpoint assessment services worth £12 million


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