Government urged to ditch PFI for schools

21 September 2010

Angeline Albert | 21 September 2010

The government risks wasting millions of pounds unless it simplifies schools building procurement and ditches “flawed and outdated” PFI schemes, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has warned.

RIBA has told the government to implement alternative procurement methods to suit the different size and complexity of individual schools building projects in its response to the Department for Education’s James Review of Capital Investment in Schools.

In its consultation response to the review, which will guide spending decisions for 2011-2014, the institute attacked the “flawed and outdated” Private Finance Initiative often used for school building schemes.

The process requires two full designs to be worked up by separate teams of contractors, architects and consultants during the bidding process. It argues this duplication is confusing for the school client, can result in poor design decisions, wastes on average eight to ten months of procurement time and adds £2.5 million to each school project.

The institute proposes a simplified procurement model that puts the client at the heart of the design and procurement process working with one design team “as per any client working on any commercial project”.

RIBA said the client should take ownership of the design and the contractor chosen for their ability to deliver the project. It said: “This would result in schools that cost millions of pounds less, delivered in close to half the current time.”

RIBA also called on the government to empower the supply side by avoiding “bureaucratic over detailed top down prescriptions that will stifle innovation and limit competition”. It says only desired outcomes and realistic budgets must be prescribed.

The institute said existing procurement models may prevent clients from developing a detailed design scheme before putting the project out to tender.

Ruth Reed, RIBA president, said: “The government urgently needs to simplify and improve the process of delivering better schools before any more time and money are wasted.”

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