Friendship does not stand in the way of contract awards

10 August 2008
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11 August 2008 | Jake Kanter

Nearly two-thirds of buyers would award contracts to a supplier they know personally, according to the latest SM100 poll.

Some 64 per cent of purchasers said having a friendship with a bidder would not make a difference during the selection process.

It follows news that Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, faces an investigation over his involvement in the award of a consultancy contract in 2002. The deal was agreed with management consultant Impact Plus, which is owned by Andy Miller. Miller is reported to be a close friend of Sir Ian (Web news, 30 July).

The buyers surveyed argued giving work to known partners can often be beneficial, but they were keen to point out it is essential to follow a proper procurement process.

Kevin Dumbarton, sourcing manager at a pharmaceutical firm, said purchasers must demonstrate there has been no unethical influence during the sourcing procedure if they are to award a deal to a friend.

Jyothi Hartley, project manager at Beacon Purchasing, added: "I don't think it does any harm to consider a supplier that you are confident will deliver the good and services if the tender process is fair and equitable."

One purchaser said he would be more likely to award a contract if he knew the vendor. He explained that a friendship means you can "understand one another and share emotions and thoughts. You communicate on a deeper level and it is an easier way to share information."

Respondents also said openness about your relationship with the supplier among colleagues could counter any problems. "One of my suppliers is the brother-in-law of one of our site managers. I benchmarked his prices and placed an order with him. Everyone knows who he is, and it doesn't cause a problem," said Philip Dews, procurement manager at GAJ Construction.

But just over a third of those questioned said they would not award a contract to a supplier if they knew them well. They felt it would call their professional integrity into question and would go against their organisation's purchasing guidelines.

"I would have to declare the friendship to my company and excuse myself from the bidding process.

"That way nobody could ever come back and say that the contract had been awarded unfairly," said Susan Davis, supply and inventory manager for Rexel Senate Electrical Supplies.


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