Sorry stadium saga embarrasses the procurement profession

16 February 2011
Imagine you are running a high-profile tender for office supplies that has ended up in a straight contest between two vendors. You are evaluating the offers when suddenly supplier A claims in the media its bid is far cheaper and a better deal than that of its rival bidder. Supplier B then starts talking to the press, insinuating its competitor represents a financially insecure option. Supplier A then ramps up the rhetoric further, claiming B’s bid is environmentally unsustainable. Outraged, B alleges A will not be able to meet its planned delivery schedule. As a buyer, how would this make you feel? Is it the sort of professional approach you would expect from companies interested in working with you? Is this the sort of organisation you could build a successful partnership with in future? Pity, then, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) that has had to deal with disgraceful conduct approximating this analogy from the two bidders to take over the 2012 stadium, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur football clubs. The OPLC is not responsible for the process degenerating into a public slanging match, but suffers the additional pressure the media storm generates. (The process does, though, underline the importance of having a clear, unambiguous specification from the outset.) More importantly the unedifying spectacle has inadvertently embarrassed the reputation and standing of the procurement profession as a whole. For many people the tender will be one of the few occasions a procurement exercise makes the front page of a newspaper or the bongs of an evening news bulletin. It accentuates the myth that suppliers must engage in a form of last bidder-standing gladiatorial combat where the content of bids is of little consequence compared to who can batter their opponent into submission. Is this the sort of thing that will attract people to work in the profession (well, maybe, but I’m not sure the profession will want those types of people)? Both Spurs, the Hammers and their bid partners, should be ashamed of themselves. Projects of a similar scale and profile in future might want to add a clause asking suppliers to make no public comment during the bid process.
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