Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Greening, social benefits and procurement?

Social benefits clauses have been the subject of much discussion over the past decade but in an interesting development today the UK government is said to have claimed they will award the new Crossrail contract taking into consideration the wider benefits to the UK.

Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, claims:
"This includes a 'responsible procurement' requirement that means bidders will need to set out how they will provide opportunities for training, apprenticeships and for small and medium-size businesses."
I wonder if this is another case of Greening misinterpreting advice? We considered an earlier faux pas some weeks ago. Is it not the case that a non-UK bidder could deliver and possibly exceed the delivery of social benefits yet the beneficiaries may not be in the UK?  If that is the case Greening could find herself having to eat humble pie, again.

Of course, Greening could find wiggle room by saying that she really meant the procurement itself (Crossrail carriages) will benefit the UK and that earlier delivery, better functionality and lowest whole life costs were really all she intended to take into consideration at the award stage - they are certainly benefits to the UK.  I wonder will she?

Nevertheless, this will be worth watching as it is difficult to see how awarding a contract based on UK specific social benefits are not discriminatory and therefore in breach of the Public Contracts Regulations.

Either way, the contract will provide useful learning for the rest of us.  It would be useful though if
the expert opinion were published quickly as to how this will be done, and long before the final award announcement in 2014. Failure to do so could lead to costly mistakes should others chose to follow the example in ignorance of how the risks are being managed, at least in Greening's eyes.

Certainly I'd invite readers of the blog to clarify how they would advise Greening on the way forward - please feel free to advise Justine here - I suspect she may be grateful.

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