05 June 2008
The full potential of competitive dialogue to produce innovative and efficient public sector projects is yet to be realised.
A briefing on the subject, published by the CBI, revealed concerns over ill-prepared documents, inadequate specifications, lack of commercial negotiation skills, delays to the process and increasing bid costs. It incorporated advice from buyers, suppliers, government departments, the Society of Procurement Officers and treasury agency Partnerships UK.
The competitive dialogue process allows buyers to discuss projects with potential bidders in more detail than traditional methods, and is designed for more complex procurements. Since being introduced in January 2006, more than 700 projects have been advertised under this process in the OJEU. But, said the CBI, only a few of those contract notices have resulted in a signed deal.
The study also found some public sector buyers were using the procedure on projects that were not sufficiently complex and would be better suited to a different process. It stressed the need for a "complexity test" to be developed by the OGC to offer more guidance.
Competitive dialogue is often associated with higher costs and a slower process because of the extra detail involved. But the CBI said these risks could be mitigated through a greater use of standard documents, and ensuring procurement teams are well resourced and capable to begin with.
It called on the National Audit Office to conduct a study on the use of the process.