The head of a group of local authorities, schools, architects and building companies has expressed disappointment that the procurement process review of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) has paid no attention to Smart PFI.
Smart PFI, a system developed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), simplifies the procurement process by insisting that the design work on a project is completed before a contract is put out to tender. Advocates believe that on a project with a capital value of £50 million, local authorities can save £1m, while the bidders can save £2.5m.
The PricewaterhouseCoopers review made a number of recommendations in order to streamline the delivery and costs of BSF.
These included reducing the procurement time from 82 weeks to 75; introducing a more comprehensive pre-qualification of bidding consortia; and placing a focus on effective partnering issues throughout the procurement process. Smart PFI was not mentioned.
Ty Goddard, British Council for School Environments director, said his fears that the review would just tinker with the system had been justified. “There are some positive elements to the review, which we welcome,” he said. “But this does not provide the root and branch changes to the BSF procurement process that we were requesting.
“We believe that many of the key issues raised could be largely dealt with by the process known as Smart PFI and it is worth exploring in detail. This approach could offer a credible way forward, address issues raised in the Select Committee Report and the concerns of those involved in the BSF process.”
“However, we are pleased to see that there is an increased emphasis on partnering. Anything that reduces the timeframes will lead to a reduction in overall costs, and more schools going up faster. We welcome the £0.25 billion in savings.”
He added: “One of the biggest flaws of this review is that there is not enough detail. We need to see what exactly is going to ministers before we can provide a detailed comment.”