We spoke to Martin Jennings, Senior Procurement Officer at Suffolk County Council about his experience working with Constructionline to promote their construction framework agreement.
In 2012, Suffolk County Council adopted Constructionline to align to industry standards and make considerable efficiency savings in their procurement process. Martin Jennings explained, “Constructionline handles the assessment and verification of our suppliers’ standard company information for us; including their insurance, financial, health & safety, equality and environmental credentials.
“By utilising Constructionline, we’re able to confirm that any tender submissions from Constructionline registered suppliers have already passed the core requirements of the PAS 91 pre-qualification questionnaire - saving us a considerable amount of time and money in the assessment process.”
Working with Constructionline to promote the framework
In spring 2015, Suffolk County Council was keen to recruit contractors for their £500 million construction framework. The four-year framework, open to Councils across the East of England, was used to govern the procurement of a full spectrum of new build and refurbishment schemes in the education, health and community sectors.
“To achieve best value in meeting our construction requirements for the framework, we recognised the need to make our procurement process as attractive as possible,” said Martin, “to do this, we aimed to reduce bureaucracy and make it easier for SMEs to bid for our work opportunities. With a number of other contracts available across the Eastern region at the same time, standing out was essential to us in achieving this.
“Working in partnership with Constructionline, and utilising their knowledge of the industry, we were able to identify the most effective methods to engage with firms to promote our framework.”
Engaging locally to source quality suppliers
Suffolk County Council has taken full advantage of the networking opportunities Constructionline offers its members. In March 2014, Suffolk County Council exhibited at Constructionline’s Meet the Buyer event, held at Newmarket Racecourse. Martin explained, “The event gave us a great chance to touch base with some of our existing local suppliers and meet potential new suppliers from the region to discuss our available work opportunities.”
Following the event, the Council placed a Prior Information Notice on the European Journal and advertised the framework on Constructionline’s Opportunities Notice Board to generate expressions of interest from suitable Constructionline registered contractors. Martin told us, “We received 45 expressions of interest in response to the advert.”
After posting the contract notice, Suffolk County Council held a Supplier Engagement event in July 2015 to give local firms the opportunity to meet members of their procurement team to discuss the details of the framework agreement and ask any questions they might have about the tender process.
David Marshall, Business Development Manager at Constructionline said, “We joined Suffolk County Council on the day to provide suppliers with guidance on the requirements of PAS 91 and advice on maintaining up-to-date information in the run-up to the submission process for the framework agreement.”
Relieving the assessment burden
“We received 45 PQQ submissions for our framework opportunity, of which only 2 firms were not registered with Constructionline,” explained Martin Jennings. To reduce the admin burden in their procurement process, Constructionline handled the assessment of the non-registered suppliers, for a small fee, as a part of our One-Off Assessment Service. Martin added, “I took advantage of Constructionline’s offer to undertake the assessment of these suppliers. This provided us with the security that all of the tender submissions had been assessed in the same way and allowed us to carry out other tasks within our tight procurement timescale.
“Throughout the procurement process, we received positive feedback from firms regarding our use of Constructionline, with many commenting on how much easier they found our procurement process in comparison to that of other organisations.”
Suffolk County Council continues use Constructionline in the management of their construction framework, utilising the system functionality to ensure that their chosen suppliers still meet the core requirements set out within PAS 91. Martin explained, “Constructionline monitors the status of our suppliers’ credentials for us. They alert us when any of their certificates or accreditations have expired and notify us when they have been renewed - a valuable asset in the management of our supplier data.”