In December last year the UK government published Professor David Mosey’s independent review of public sector construction frameworks (Mosey, 2021). It challenged the government to deliver a new ‘gold standard’ for public sector frameworks. NEC users – both clients and suppliers – have a vital role to play in in making this happen.
Tasked with delivering £650 billion of infrastructure and construction investment over the next 10 years, UK public sector clients will need all the help they can get to negotiate the often-complex landscape of construction procurement frameworks.
As Professor Mosey recognises, frameworks have been proven to provide a powerful tool for strategic planning, integrated teams, continuous improvement and the delivery of better, safer, faster and greener project outcomes. But choosing one from the myriad on offer can be difficult.
The proposed new gold standard aims to provide procuring authorities with the tools to identify frameworks that support best practices and embody principles of the government’s The Construction Playbook (HM Government, 2020). It will also challenge the teams that design frameworks to get serious about delivering a consistent construction procurement ecosystem. NEC users will play a big part in this. Whether from a client or supplier base, experience of best practice is fundamental to ensuring success here. I encourage all users to provide their views, in particular on how the NEC suite of contracts can be effective.
Much of what will determine the success or otherwise of the government’s efforts will come down to leadership behaviours. There are practical things all NEC users can do to ensure their procurements follow best practice, but just as important is attitude.
Behaviour and leadership are key: suppliers have to want to be part of building back better, and public sector clients have to recognise where more innovative arrangements, like those contained within the NEC4 suite, will bring benefits. Suppliers also need to consider the societal benefits they can bring to the table, demonstrating how they will deliver against net zero emissions targets, supporting social value and health and safety, and tackling modern slavery.
At Crown Commercial Service, where I am deputy construction director, we are working alongside NHS England and NHS Improvement to launch a new construction framework that brings together elements of our own construction frameworks, many of which use NEC, with the latest iteration of its NEC4-based ProCure framework.
Rationalising the number and complexity of framework agreements is as important as any of the recommendations of The Construction Playbook. It will ensure public sector customers can easily identify the most efficient route to market and will standardise the processes and terms required to deliver the public sector’s construction pipelines.
The next decade will see transformative changes to the UK’s infrastructure. With the right strategy, and in an NEC-style spirit of collaboration between public sector partners, buyers and suppliers, NEC users can help the country build back better, greener and fairer.
HM Government (2020) The Construction Playbook, Government Guidance on sourcing and contracting public works, Cabinet Office, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-constructionplaybook
Mosey D (2021) Constructing the Gold Standard − An Independent Review of Public Sector Construction Frameworks, Cabinet Office, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-independent-review-of-public-sectorconstruction-frameworks (accessed 28 January 2022).