Buyers refuse to support 'blinkered'
e-auction guide

5 February 2004
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05 February 2004 | Robin Parker

Attempts to get the construction industry to agree on the use of e-auctions have broken down following CIPS's withdrawal of support for major guidelines.

The CIPS team, lead by Billy Quinn, supply chain manager at Taylor Woodrow Construction, had been part of a working party set up by the Construction Industry Council (CIC) 18 months ago to determine the way forward for e-auctions in the sector.

But Quinn told SM that CIPS had backed away from the project after the CIC's last-minute changes to the guidelines came down more negatively on e-auctions than the middle ground the institute had fought for.

The rift follows the Construction Products Association's calls for the government to abandon e-auctions (see News, 8 January).

The guidance, Online Bidding: A CIC Briefing Note, is aimed at both those proposing to host an auction and at suppliers hoping to bid. It is to be sent to the CIC's 250,000 member firms.

The final draft contains two last-minute clauses that place more emphasis on how e-auctions encourage tendering at the expense of partnerships.

It suggests that they conflict with the principles set out in Sir John Egan's influential report, Rethinking Construction, which "seeks to discourage tendering as wasteful, recommending instead the development of partnering and teamworking arrangements".

E-auctions, it says, "could continue to reinforce industry fragmentation at the expense of such arrangements".

Quinn said e-auctions were clearly not right in every case, but could exist alongside the principles laid out in the report.

He was disappointed by the CIC's "totally blinkered approach" to e-auctions after 18 months of talks.

"Certain members have insisted on change to reflect their 'anti' view and I feel that they still do not fully understand the process," he said.

"Since the government has started promoting e-auctions as an acceptable method of procurement, it seems a lot of companies have started panicking."

CIPS had planned to promote the guidance to all its members on its website and through SM.

Quinn said the team was now deciding whether to produce its own CIPS-branded guidelines.


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