Has UK public sector gone ''framework crazy''?

14 March 2012

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14 March 2012 | Adam Leach

A panel of senior buyers has weighed in on a debate over whether framework agreements are being used too much and limiting their power to do their jobs.

The topic was raised during a live debate at the Procurex National conference in Birmingham yesterday when a supplier in the audience said her company had put time and resources into joining frameworks only to find that little buying occurred from them. In response, Eddie Regan, senior procurement consultant at BIP Solutions, argued that the UK had gone “framework crazy”.

He added: “Everybody seems to want to create frameworks for everything under the sun. Nobody goes out and buys any longer, at least, in a lot of organisations, they just look for the convenient framework to use and it’s a bit of a worry.”

David Smith, commercial director at the Department for Work and Pensions, expressed sympathy with the questioner if the framework she was on had been used out of “idleness rather than direction” but defended their effectiveness when used correctly. “Frameworks can be a very powerful tool and a good tool in terms of flexibility, business continuity and speed, if they are tight and managed and used, but not if they’re let out of convenience.”

Simon Lydiard, head of corporate procurement at the Department for Transport, said:  “What I’ve been struggling with a little bit recently is a number of internal clients who want frameworks, and I think sometimes, that’s because they haven’t deeply articulated their requirements.

“Sometimes we’re a little bit lazy in the public sector in that we simply create relationships that provide easy access to particular suppliers. We need to spend more time helping our clients to really understand their requirements so we can take them to market in the most effective way.”

Michael Lee, project manager, Hampshire County Council, argued that procurement needed to focus more on the early stages of the process. “For me, the big interest is for procurement to get more involved in the front end of decision making. It’s about identifying the need and evaluating different options to meet that need before we get anywhere near a procurement exercise.”


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