Civil engineers have called on the government to use Brexit as an opportunity to rethink public procurement regulations in the UK.
Marie-Claude Hemming, head of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), said the industry’s ability to deliver projects efficiently had been “stymied by burdensome procurement processes”, in part because of EU regulations.
“While some of the EU processes are sensible, and ensure a competitive market for customers, the decision to leave the EU potentially opens the opportunity to look again at the bits that are not working as well,” said Hemming.
CECA will be issuing a full report on procurement in the construction sector next month but has made its call now ahead of the UK government's Autumn Statement, the first since the vote to leave the EU.
Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of CECA, said rules limiting procurement frameworks to five years and restrictions on early market engagement were issues that “sometimes cause challenges”.
“In the construction industry one of the things that we know is that continuity of workload and certainty of workload going forward is usually beneficial,” he said.
“If you’re trying to build a long-term relationship with the supplier, if you are only allowed maybe a five-year framework deal, while there are benefits to that in terms of ensuring that the market stays positive, equally it does mean you get that natural cut-off in that relationship.”
Reisner said despite the changes to the regulations in 2014, “we’re still not seeing as much early market engagement as we expected”.
However, Reisner said it was also important to consider what regulations worked and what should be kept. “We’re also calling for some things to be not lost just because we’ve left the EU… We just want as efficient a way as possible for customers to bring work to market and get the right supplier.”
He also said it was important to remember EU procurement law will still be enshrined in UK law after Brexit happens.
“It’s not just a case of, because Europe goes away, all this stuff falls over. It’s for us to look at what, of what we’ve now transposed into UK regulations, should we keep, and what might we want to look at again in the future,” he said.
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