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Pre-qualification must be tackled

It has been estimated that the building services sector loses over £40 million a year dealing with the bureaucracy and demands of the many qualification schemes imposed by clients.

With cost savings being pursued by the government and end users, this is an obvious area where money can be saved without diminishing the quality of the sector’s end-product.

The HVCA is stepping up its efforts to establish the principle of ‘deemed to satisfy’ arrangements that offer automatic entry on to ‘approved’ lists. One excellent example is the Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP) Forum, where members recognise each other’s schemes. When firms have pre-qualified under one scheme, they are deemed to satisfy the health and safety requirements of all SSIP schemes.

This enables member companies to automatically satisfy the health and safety tender requirements of clients who are limiting their use of approved contractor schemes to those operated by members of the SSIP Forum.

It is more important than ever that we reduce the administrative burden that multiple pre-qualification schemes place on contractors. A recent report produced by Rita Donaghy, One Death Is Too Many, highlighted this issue and said: “The existence of a myriad of separate pre-qualification schemes diverts contractor time and resource that could be more effectively used to improve standards of health and safety on site.”

Mutual recognition focuses precious resources on the core safety criteria demanded by the CDM Regulations such as the need for contractors to have a health and safety policy; to ensure workers have appropriate training and qualifications; clear accident reporting strategies are in place; adequate welfare provision is available, etc.

Paper for paper’s sake has been shown, time and again, to hinder the provision of health and safety. The same principle applies across all aspects of project tendering and clients are reducing their own value for money by insisting on these repetitive and time consuming paper trails.

The current economic crisis has focused minds on where systems can be streamlined and simplified to speed up delivery of projects and improve value for money.

This presents the whole building procurement sector with an opportunity to tackle pre-qualification and, therefore, the availability of a publicly available specification is timely.

The time has now come, and the mechanisms are now in place, for clients to accept that these suppliers, at least, have proved themselves and should be allowed to get on with their jobs.

Roderick Pettigrew is deputy chief executive and head of the commercial and legal department of the HVCA