Author Archives

Tim Williams

Corruption claims against Edinburgh City Council

BBC Scotland is broadcasting a documentary tonight (20th September) titled ‘Scotland’s Property Scandal’  on BBC1 Scotland (Sky Channel 971) after the news at 22:35. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer for those of you who don’t have access to BBC Scotland.

The programme investigates the evidence of possible fraud, wrong-doing and incompetence in the Property Conservation Department at Edinburgh City Council. This department is responsible for overseeing the statutory notice system, that seems unique to Edinburgh, where private buildings with multiple owners (e.g. tenements or blocks of flats), can be issued with a notice by the Council stating that the building is going to be repaired and that the cost will be passed to the owners. These repairs are commonly to roofs, or external masonry not only to make sure that they are wind and water tight, but to make sure that there is no danger to passing pedestrians from falling slates or blocks of stone.

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Is scrapping PQQ’s really a good idea?

The Cabinet Office under Francis Maude, has announced that it intends to eliminate PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) for all central government procurements under £100,000.

While I hate filling these things in and find that they are frequently lazily or incompetently written and just as often poorly evaluated, they do fulfil a useful purpose. That is, they avoid the need for suppliers who stand little chance of winning the contract, to complete the full tender document, as well as the need for the buyer to evaluate the full tender from a multitude of suppliers.

I fear that the main result from scrapping the PQQ is that we (the suppliers) end up having to spend many days or weeks completing a full tender, instead of a day or so completing a PQQ, which will then be even more incompetently evaluated by the buyer, as they have a much greater volume to assess.

Surely what is required is a reform of the PQQ process and training to ensure that procurement staff understand what they are doing, rather than engaging in a box ticking exercise? We seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Cabinet Office consultation on public contracts

Cabinet Office sign

In December 2010 the Cabinet Office invited feedback on the effectiveness of the public procurement rules. The purpose of that exercise was to inform the UK’s involvement in the ongoing review of the rules by the European Commission.

The Commission’s review is still underway, and it has now released a formal public consultation paper to which the Cabinet Office is preparing a UK response. Since the Commission’s recent consultation paper is substantially more detailed than the information previously provided by the Cabinet Office, they have extended the deadline for comments until 25th February.

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Supreme Court overturns procurement case

Supreme Court logo

The Supreme Court yesterday (9th February 2011) delivered a landmark judgement in the first procurement case to reach the court, overturning previous decisions of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Supreme Court logo

The economic downturn and the massive cuts in funding for local authorities which are now beginning to flow through will increasingly require councils to look for new and innovative ways to deliver services. In February 2007, the London Borough of Brent invited tenders in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006, (the Procurement Regulations), for the provision of insurance. The company Risk Management Partners (RMP) submitted a tender, but was informed on 7 March 2007 that Brent had decided to award the contract to London Authorities Mutual Limited (LAML) which had not taken part in the competition. LAML was formed by a group of local authorities to provide insurance to the member authorities. Brent became a member of, and helped to fund, LAML, a guaranteed indemnity mutual insurance company. There was an expected saving of 15 to 20 per cent in comparison with external insurance.

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Modernisation of the European Public Procurement Market

European map with EU stars

Public procurement accounts for roughly 17% of the European Union’s GDP. In times of tight budgets and economic difficulties in many Member States, public procurement policy must ensure the most efficient use of public funds, with a view to supporting growth and job creation. This would require flexible and user-friendly tools that make transparentEuropean map with EU stars and competitive contract awards as easy as possible for European public authorities and their suppliers. With these objectives in mind, the European Commission has  launched a consultation which will focus on the modernisation of the rules, tools and methods for public procurement. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011.

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Getting feedback at the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage

Chart illustrating proportion of open, restricted, competitive dialogue and negotiated tendering procedures used in the UK and Europe

One of the most frequent questions we are asked at Tenders Direct is ‘Am I entitled to feedback if I get knocked out at the PQQ stage?‘ This is a very important question as pre-qualification is used much more often in the UK than in the rest of Europe. The chart below shows the relative proportion that each of the four main tender procedures (Open, Restricted, Competitive Dialogue or Negotiated) was used in the UK and in Europe.

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Sir Philip Green’s Efficiency Review ‘Stating the bleeding obvious’?

Sir Philip Green

This week saw the publication of Sir Philip Green’s ‘Efficiency Review.’ My favourite response, apparently made by a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman was ‘Most of it, to use Greenspeak, is a statement of the bleeding obvious.’

As Nick Timmins commented in the Financial Times this week:

‘We have been here before. They all found the same. And it must be said, much of their analysis, and some of their prescriptions, were a good deal more profound than Sir Philip’s somewhat glib 33-page PowerPoint-style presentation. Same analysis. Great headlines. Not a lot of detail on how to tackle it all.

The FT hits the nail on the head, we don’t need some non-dom, tax-exile, retail tycoon to identify the problems, the problems are comparatively obvious. Indeed the way to achieve improvements in the way things are currently done that would save billions are also fairly obvious. The hard part is implementing the improvements, in making sure that any initiatives are communicated all the way down to the frontline staff actually doing the purchasing and then monitoring their behaviour to make sure they are following the new policies.

Sir Philip Green


Public contracts after the General Election

UK Party Leaders

Despite the three election debates, none of us are any the wiser precisely how the next Government will cut expenditure in order to pay off the financial deficit. We know that change is (hopefully) coming that will reduce the size of ‘Big Government’ and while change often brings threats, it also brings opportunities.

UK Party Leaders

UK Party Leaders

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Gordon’s EU Compact for Jobs & Growth

Gordon Brown & Herman van Rompuy

In yet another sign of the growing political significance of public procurement the UK Government today published a compact designed to reinvigorate EU economies and build “strong, sustainable and balanced” growth. Gordon Brown met EU President Herman van Rompuy at Downing Street this morning to discuss the economic strategy, as well as climate change, security and the situation in Haiti.  

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Financial thresholds for contracts published in the Official Journal (OJEU)

Euro notesI’m a bit late with this blog post, what with Christmas and New Year and then all the snow, but better late than never.

On January 1st 2010  new financial thresholds, which govern whether or not a contract must be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), came into force. There’s often a lot of confusion about these thresholds, so I’ll try and explain a bit of the background as well as the actual values of the new thresholds.

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