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APPG for EBE launches ‘A better deal for public building’ report

Posted: 14th September 2012

The Group’s 13 – key point plan to increase value for money for the taxpayer is set out in its report ‘A Better Deal for Public Building’.

Amongst the proposals is a call to adopt procurement processes employed by the Olympic Delivery Authoority, which built the venues for the London Olympic Games 2012, hailed for its successful delivery of top-class project, to budget and on time.
The report endorses the Government’s aim of achieving 20 per cent cost savings for public construction projects over the course of the current Parliament, as outlined in its Construction Strategy unveiled last year. However, it says that unless Government implements its proposals, there is a danger that the savings are achieved at the expense of good quality design.

The report further points out that public sector clients are often poorly equipped to commission construction work and often fail to devote enough time and effort to developing the brief and managing the project. Thus, nothing short of a cultural shift is needed if they are to develop lasting and sustainable improvements in the procurement of buildings and infrastructure, the report says. The Government must commit the necessary support and resources to make this happen.
Other key recommendations include:

• Setting up a Best Practice Procurement Advisory Group to assist inexperienced public sector clients (including Government departments, agencies, non-departmental public bodies and local government) to define their objectives clearly and adopt appropriate procurement arrangements for the size and type of project. The Government should do this via the Chief Construction Adviser while infrequent clients would benefit from appointing a professional adviser to develop the brief.

• Procuring projects on the basis of integrated teams (designers, contractors and, if appropriate, asset managers). The selection of an integrated team must not be made on the basis of lowest price. Instead, as with the construction of the venues for London 2012, the decision should be made on the basis of a balanced scorecard. This means, marking the bid against a prescribed range of specified criteria, one of which should be long-term sustainability.

• Ensuring large-scale public projects (£100m-plus in value) have mandatory construction commitments, based on the 2012 Construction Commitments. Participants in the project should be required to report progress in meeting these commitments over the duration of the project.

• Government should encourage voluntary adoption of such construction commitments across a wide range of public and private sector projects with a programme of promotional activity, including awards, to highlight and celebrate success. Key indicators could include: client leadership, sustainability, team integration, design quality, health and safety, and commitment to people, which includes a commitment to employing local people and excellent facilities.

• Requiring the Government’s Chief Construction Adviser to prepare an annual report on the performance of public sector clients (including Government departments, agencies, non-departmental public body and local authorities) in construction procurement. This should highlight positive achievements in successful projects, as well as failure to deliver value.
Sir Tony Baldry MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment Construction, says: “As the squeeze has tightened on public spending, it is more imperative than ever that public sector clients and their suppliers work together to lower the cost of building procurement to the public purse. Lest it be overlooked, the Government is still the construction industry’s largest single client spending £46bn a year.”

“The austere times we are living in will certainly provide a driver for change for both client and its construction industry suppliers. If costs can be reduced it should ensure more building and infrastructure projects go ahead. We hope our observations and recommendations will provide support for the Government Construction Strategy, underline the magnitude of the task, and offer suggestions for finally putting the know-how we have into action across the public estate in order that we can bring about the procurement revolution we still so desperately need.”