Purchasing shake-up branded 'all talk'

9 March 2002
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09 March 2002 | Robin Parker

The latest attempt to shake up outmoded procurement practices in the construction industry will fail, a senior member of a government-backed committee has predicted.

David Porter, a non-executive director of the Collaborative Working Centre, which is backed by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, said new guidance from the Strategic Forum on Construction was "lots of talk and not much action".

A draft of Accelerating Change is due to be published in September and has been sent to industry leaders and trade bodies for their views.

The report is Sir John Egan's follow-up to his landmark 1998 report, Rethinking Construction, which attempted to replace traditionally fragmented and adversarial relationships with a modern partnership approach.

The report also aims to build on moves to improve buyer-supplier relationships first outlined in Sir Michael Latham's report, Constructing the Team, in 1994.

The forum, which represents the government, suppliers, contractors and clients, was set up last year to replace the Construction Industry Board.

Accelerating Change sets targets to increase projects carried out by integrated teams of buyers and suppliers. It also promotes the use of independent client advisers, seen as key to smoothing buyer-supplier relations.

The consultation coincides with the launch of research by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) to gauge the impact of Rethinking Construction on procurement practices.

Porter, who is also head of construction at consultancy PMMS, said Egan's guidelines were based on good intentions but offer no practical means of moving the industry forwards.

Procurement should be at the heart of client leadership, he said, and failure to address it has left the construction sector behind other industries.

"It's symptomatic of the industry, being lots of talk and not much action, and is not much different to Rethinking Construction," he said.

"It's reinventing the wheel - a lot of these areas were flagged up by Latham eight years ago.

"The construction industry is still not drawing effectively on the procurement experience of other sectors and these guidelines will not help."

Graham Watts, the CIC's chief executive, said the guidance was in line with the forum's approach and would give direction to small and inexperienced firms.

"It is not seeking to be a panacea for the construction industry, but it provides focus on the areas we feel most strongly about," he said.

A spokesman for the Construction Confederation, which represents contractors, said the consultation document was an attempt to steer the industry and should be treated as a "work in progress".


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