CEWales E Bulletin January 2021

CEO of CEWales, Cat Griffith-Williams explains that the common link to 2020 and 2019 is not the virus. It’s procurement. Get it right and everything follows

Procurement the common thread?

The enormity of the challenges presented by Covid-19 has required huge Government attention and response, the construction and built environment sector has been called upon to provide essential goods and services. The agility of the sector has been tested in order to deliver at speed, by putting these emergency procurement procedures in place we have shown we can construct quickly to which we should be commended but it also leads us to bring ‘quality’ into stark focus.

Grenfell has demonstrated the need to eradicate unethical practices. We should not be in the situation where all parts of the supply chain are defending themselves and denying acceptance of any responsibility of what happened at Grenfell Tower. There should be clear clarity on the ownership of risk. The processes should be right from the outset ensuring the safe and responsible construction of all our built environment, quality checked throughout, allowing no failures in building regulations. We need to move the industry from hugely complex procedures, inadequately enforced, easily manipulated and poorly understood. 

The first lockdown in March had a large impact on procurement opportunities within the public sector however demand recovered quickly and by June there was evidence of a clear V shaped recovery that was sustained for the rest of the year. Despite another lockdown at the beginning of 2021, we seem to have adjusted well.

We see progress through procurement reform and the Construction Playbook. Both are vital to construction procurement and do not contradict or conflict the thinking behind progressive procurement; both are seeking outcomes and outputs for our construction procurement. We see moves to ensure construction is procured on a quality price type matrix, which for some doesn’t go far enough to assess value and risk as part of any evaluation process, though there’s optimism that there are developments which can be evaluated and utilised to help fulfil a more progressive approach.

There are many developments in Wales on procurement where more emphasis is placed on value not cost, which is fundamental, after all procurement drives behaviours. We have the launch of the National TOMS for Wales, FG Directory and the Social Value Tool Kit. There is also the pricing models’ paper of Trowers and Hamlins which provide interesting ideas on development. We see many good approaches being adopted where procurement is being given the lead with procurement strategy value for money and delivery of better outcomes and value.  One thing is clear however, procurement should be at a higher level than it currently is in organisations, but we also need to enhance competencies capability so once we get there it can deliver expectations.

As well as procurement reform, CEWales is delighted with the Construction Playbook, it naturally moves us on from the Latham and Egan reports. It’s a positive move in the right direction and of huge importance. It contains great content on how we can together create a transformation of the construction sector. The playbook emphasises the importance of procurement and buying for value rather than cost and is in tune with our thoughts on how procurement should be conducted. Implementation will be a challenge, as behaviours will need to be influenced throughout the supply chain; as well as ensuring Welsh Government adapt its principles, as it’s left to the devolved nations decision makers.

CEWales will support clients, contractors and professionals to embrace best practice and improve construction procurement in Wales. This will be through training, sharing of best practice, influencing policy makers and publishing the great examples of excellence to show what we can achieve as a construction industry when collaboration and progressive procurement are used as enablers for our projects. Please do get in touch and get involved!