Thursday, 24 January 2013

Calling the kettle black & Taking Account of Bidders' Past Performance

I just don’t get it. There was the fanfare of MP’s calling for a blacklist of poor suppliers based on perceived performance failures of one supplier (who shall remain nameless) but subsequently went on to win many contracts. Then this week brought uproar when the construction industry were alleged to have a blacklist of staff who had demonstrated poor past performance. Do we seriously want organisations taking on staff with a history of poor performance or are we expecting them to rely on the rhetoric and additional costs of making it easier for employers to get rid of poor performing staff. Would we want to procure from organisations which had poor preforming staff?

The recent Procurement Policy Note - TakingAccount of Bidders' Past Performance, euphemistically called 'Action Note 09/12', would answer, ‘no’.

The Policy Note is concerned with taking into consideration a suppliers past performance, and by implication, the past performance of the suppliers’ workers! Is this a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’?

What I just don’t get is why did we need a Policy Note to set out, only for contracts over £20m, that suppliers past performance should be considered. Call me naïve but the EU procurement rules have never prohibited taking into consideration a potential contractors relevant past performance.

Does the need for a Policy Note imply that central government procurement has not previously
taken into consideration a potential suppliers past performance? That would be wholly unprofessional. Equally, it would be inconsistent with the common PQQ questions which have been presented to the supply market for years - has the information obtained not been used?

Does the Policy Note imply that past performance should not be considered when contracts are below £20m? That would fail to recognise that low value contracts can be of strategic significance in terms of risk.

No, I just don’t get it!

Could it possibly be that I have completely misunderstood the purpose of the Policy Note? Is it just possible that Policy Note is internally focused and aimed at getting reliable information from within spending departments on supplier past performance? If that is the case, does it imply that such information wasn’t forthcoming from departments in the past or was unreliable?  Does it imply poor contact management? Does it imply poor record keeping? Does it imply poor key performance indicators?

It is just conceivably possible that the focus of the Policy Note is not suppliers past poor performance, but on the contrary, on buyers past poor performance in contributing reliable evidence to the procurement management knowledge of central government!

Will anything change as a result of the Policy Note? I just don’t know and, in the absence of any explicit statement of purpose or how impact will be evaluated, I doubt if any of us will ever know! 

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