Alan Wilson, head of membership and communications at SELECT, has made a presentation on the problems facing public sector procurement to the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group for Construction.
Wilson, in his capacity as national executive officer of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group, made his presentation to the Cross Party Group at the end of March. It was the latest initiative in SELECT and the SEC Group’s campaign to improve how the business community interacts with the public sector, which buys £10 billion of goods, works and services each year.
“My presentation was made to a group of MSPs as well as interested parties from throughout the construction sector to give our organisations’ views on how procurement could be improved,” said Wilson.
The SEC Group represents a number of trade bodies in Scotland, which in turn represent around 3,000 firms which employ more than 30,000 people and more than 5,000 apprentices. SELECT’s 1,250 member companies have a collective turnover of around £1 billion and provide employment for 15,000 people.
In his presentation, Wilson stated that Scottish SMEs are acknowledged as the backbone of the economy and that a smoothly-running procurement environment was a vitally important issue for them.
He said, “I wanted to draw to the attention of our elected representatives a number of issues including the payment cycle, retentions, large packaging of contracts and lack of accountability.”
On payment, Wilson suggested the more stringent enforcement of Section 15 of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 as well as the extension of, and reduction of limits for, Project Bank Accounts.
He also proposed placing all retentions into a trust-based deposit scheme and greater implementation of the Act’s provisions which allow public bodies to package contracts into smaller lots for which small firms can more realistically bid.
On accountability, he supported the introduction of a yellow/red card scheme and the appointment of a Construction Regulator.
Wilson concluded, “In the wake of the Carillion crisis, now is the time to act. People need to be accountable, and they need to pay on time. Retentions should not be used as bargaining chips and we should try to get away from the fixation of large scale contracts.”
Newell McGuiness, SELECT managing director, added, “Scotland’s legislators and its parliamentary committees have come some way on procurement and with some sensible additions to the current regulations which cover the operation of the Bill, we could have a procurement regime with which everyone could work and which will deliver for Scotland.”