The EastEnders set was built in 1984 and was originally intended to be used for two years © Heritage Images/Getty Images
The EastEnders set was built in 1984 and was originally intended to be used for two years © Heritage Images/Getty Images

BBC procurement on EastEnders set overhaul 'ineffective'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
20 March 2019

The procurement behind the BBC’s revamp of its EastEnders set has been slammed as “ineffective” by MPs.

In a report the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said problems with procurement added £2.3m to the cost of the E20 project and delayed it by six months.

The PAC said the EastEnders set was built 35 years ago and was “no longer fit for purpose” in a high definition age.

But renovation work is set to cost licence fee payers £87m, £27m more than budgeted, and it is not due to be complete until 2023, nearly five years later than planned.

The report said the BBC carried out a single stage open procurement in 2016 for a contract, the largest of 42 contracts to support the project, to rebuild the external set using brick structures rather than the current facades.

This was “unsuccessful owing to limited market interest” and “only one of the three bidders met the BBC’s cost and quality requirements”.

“The BBC attributed the lack of market interest to the bespoke nature of the project and the economic environment at the time making contractors more selective,” said the report.

“The initial procurement failure led the BBC to change its approach and move to a two-stage procurement through its Building Contractor Service Framework, which cost it £2.3m and delayed the project by six months.”

The PAC said in the second procurement there were just three bidders and only two met the BBC’s requirements, with Wates being awarded the contract.

“After an opening offer of £21.7m from Wates, following clarifications and the confirmation of provisional sums and change requests, the cost of the final contract was £24.2m, £9.5m more than the BBC had budgeted,” said the report.

“We were concerned that the BBC’s cost consultants (AECOM) were unable to validate £3.1m of the costs that were included in the final contract and concluded that limited market interest was likely to have inflated prices.”

The PAC said delays were caused by lengthy discussions taking weeks over the type of bricks to be used in the set with the BBC claiming that “replicating the look and feel of the set meant that it was not possible to buy bricks from standard commercial sources”.

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