The Role of Frameworks in Public Sector Procurement

Shaun Lunn
The public sector, at both national and local level, forms the construction industry’s largest client, chalking up nearly 40 per cent of spending. It invests over £45bn per year in infrastructure and building projects, according to the Office of National Statistics.

With over 50 professional buying organisations, the challenge is to provide a cohesive solution to what often appears to be a fragmented procurement landscape. With increasing pressure to reduce timescales and costs whilst maintaining quality and front-line services, inefficiencies can be ill-afforded if project success is to be achieved.

This is not a new problem and has been at the centre of various government backed initiatives and reports, including Latham (1994) and Egan (1998). The issues were most recently addressed by the September 2012 report produced by the All Party Group for Excellence in the Built Environment.

There have been significant achievements since the early 1990s, bringing clients, contractors and designers closer together in a less adversarial environment. However the 2012 report confirms that one of the key barriers to improvement is that public sector clients are often poorly equipped to commission construction work. The Commission highlighted a need for cultural shift if the public sector is to ‘develop a lasting and sustainable behavioural environment’, calling on the government to commit to providing the necessary support and resources. The report also cautions that the 20 per cent saving required over the course of this Parliament should not compromise quality and good design.

The past decade has seen a steady increase in the use of frameworks and this looks set to continue. Popular OJEU compliant framework procurement models usually work in one of two ways: a selected list of approved providers who compete in mini competitions to actually win projects, or a sole provider who supplies all services throughout the duration of the framework, based on pre-tendered rates.

Traditionally clients have focused solely on how much a service or construction project is going to cost. Lowest price, however, rarely guarantees best value. In recent years the focus has been on looking at the ‘whole package’ rather than simply the end cost. This is not to say that cost is unimportant, rather that there is more to consider as an end user, and often it is possible to achieve more with less.

Working together, we can continue to offer public sector clients the best possible service.

The adoption of truly collaborative frameworks support and enhance the overall offering. If efficiency targets are to be achieved, we can expect to see increasing use across the public sector. As well as cost savings, frameworks commonly offer these benefits:

  • Provides an opportunity to share information and expertise
  • Encourages more integrated working
  • Supports local economies through SMEs
  • Up-skills employees of the organisations involved
  • Develops efficient standardised processes
  • Develops pipeline of work to support consistent supply chain
  • Promotes community engagement and social economic investment

These benefits help to develop efficiencies in time and cost whilst maintaining and often improving overall quality. This supports the drive to deliver more with less, and ultimately secures better value for the taxpayer’s purse.

There are a number of framework options available, without clients having to invest time and money in devising their own. Examples include GPS, P21, Scape, EMPA, Yorconsult and SEWSCAP. Their suitability may depend upon service, sector, location and exclusivity or agreement. Frameworks tend to offer their own range of services, methods of procurement (supplier selection or mini completion), KPI monitoring and client support.

One of the most recently awarded national professional services framework is the Scape Asset Management, Surveying and Design Services Framework. Local authority controlled company Scape appointed Faithful+Gould as the sole supplier in their latest four year framework on 1st October 2012. The appointment marks a second term for Faithful+Gould building on the success of the previous Design and Technical Services Framework.

Faithful+Gould’s appointment was made following a rigorous competitive OJEU compliant process marked on 50 per cent price, 50 per cent quality scores, and provides UK public sector bodies with immediate access to a complete suite of professional construction consultancy services.

Scape has developed a unique suite of national professional services and contractor frameworks which can work together or independently of each other to suit the client. Scape regularly demonstrates the effectiveness and benefits which clients are experiencing and will actively work with clients to develop the right solution, ensuring that they are realising real time and cost benefits.

Scape has a unique approach to supporting clients, providing a managed framework service and is dedicated to ensuring that collaboration and real benefits are realised by the end user. Working together, we can continue to offer public sector clients the best possible service.


Written by