Procurement changes ‘could help’ construction

Government changes to the way goods and services are procured during the coronavirus crisis could alter the way some construction contracts are awarded if the situation worsens, according to one of the region’s procurement bodies.

“In extreme circumstances, if we see an increase in the need for extra care facilities and healthcare facilities, and, as long as public sector money is being spent correctly, I can see [the policy changes] being implemented,” said Mike Tyler, business development manager at North West Construction Hub.

Tyler, whose firm awards contracts to companies to deliver public sector schemes for local authorities, added: “There are several projects already on the radar for local authorities to provide extra care facilities and those may be escalated and brought forward – in which case we are ready to get contractors appointed to those clients more swiftly  to deliver what they need.”

However, Robbie Blackhurst, framework director at Procure Partnerships, said he “did not think it would be possible for companies to get away with” using the revised procurement policy to push through rapid deals with contractors.

The changes introduced this week are designed to allow goods needed in the fight against Covid-19 to be supplied more readily, without the requirement for a prolonged procurement process. 

Contracts for the provision of goods during this time could also be extended beyond their expiry date in order to limit disruption, under the new Government policy. 

Options that may be considered now in relation to procurement include: 

  • Direct awards due to extreme urgency (without the need for full tender)   
  • Direct award due to absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights;  
  • Call-off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system 
  • Call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales 
  • Extending or modifying a contract during its term

Procure Partnerships oversees tenders for national frameworks such as the £2.5bn minor works framework across England and Wales that was awarded this week. Procure Partnerships has also awarded tenders for projects such as the first phase of the Merseyway shopping centre revamp in Stockport, to Graham Construction.

Blackhurst said that, while the policy changes might not directly impact the award of construction contracts, site closures could prompt a shift in focus for those working in procurement, away from on-site projects towards lining up future tenders.

He said: “If sites close, and it is looking like it might go that way, the only thing that public sector project managers can look at is the stuff that isn’t on site like building tender documentation and using the time to do that rather than split their time between live jobs and future jobs.

At the moment, no sites are closing, Blackhurst added. “It is business as usual. I have had letters from nearly all of the contractors but if we do go into lockdown, people will not be able to go to site.

“As a result, public sector project managers will be working on the future stuff and getting that in order. It could be a busy time for us,” he said.

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