15 April 2011 | Lindsay Clark
The UK’s prime minister should ask the cabinet secretary to
conduct a thorough capability review to strengthen the procurement of the nation’s
infrastructure, an industry group said.
The call came in a report by the Business Infrastructure
Commission, which said the country was burdened by over-specifying projects and
setting unnecessary standards in procurement.
“Critically, the public procurement process does not have
the right skills or capabilities to handle large infrastructure contracts,” it said.
The commission, an independent industry group formed by the British Chambers of Commerce,
also said government departments did not prioritise procurement as a key
Concerns about the public sector’s procurement skills were
heightened because of the government’s ambitious £200 billion, five-year, National Infrastructure Plan,
announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in October.
“Increased levels of investment from both government and
critically from the private sector must also be matched by a long-term
infrastructure strategy,” said professor David Begg, chairman of the commission.
“This has to include a focus on how we develop a skilled workforce to deliver
these projects, an overhaul of how we procure and build new publicly funded
infrastructure, and a planning system that is fit for purpose.”
For example, there are savings of £2 to 3 billion annually
to be found through more efficient procurement, Begg said.
In March, the government promised to encourage greater
innovation and allow for earlier and integrated supply chain involvement through
improved competition and procurement processes, as part of the Infrastructure Cost Review: ImplementationPlan released
by the Treasury.