Kent County Council in the UK has chosen an NEC-based framework to procure professional services for maintaining and improving its 8600 km highway network. A four-year NEC3 Framework Contract (FC) worth £25 million was awarded to Aecom, Project Centre, Watermans and WSP in April 2020.
Individual service packages are let under NEC3 Professional Services Contracts (PSC) using option A (priced contract with activity schedule), C (target contract) or E (time-based contract) depending on risks identified at the outset and the party best placed to manage them.
The framework covers maintenance of existing highway assets to provide the best possible highway and transportation service for Kent’s residents, visitors and businesses. It also covers planning and improving the highway network to help Kent’s economy grow and to ensure it continues to be as safe and efficient as possible.
The four consultants are providing a wide range of professional services in five key areas: highways and engineering, transportation services, strategy planning and enforcement, surveys and investigations, and commercial services. They offer a comprehensive range of specialist advice that is not available internally and enables the council is able to meet its legislative and strategic aims.
A key role of the consultants is to manage over 250 highways construction and maintenance contracts while ensuring the challenges of public health and safety, budget constraints, geographic diversity, freedom-of-information, ever-changing technical guidelines and shifting strategic priorities are fully met.
David Aspinall, the council’s strategic contracts and commissioning support manager, says NEC has been the preferred choice of contract suite for all Kent’s highway contracts since the early 2000s. ‘This means suppliers are familiar with the NEC contract management processes required. Indeed, it is so fundamental to our work now that we pay NEC for the copyright to reproduce the contracts.’
He says an NEC3 FC was chosen for professional services as it provided a more agile approach to project and contract management. ‘It encourages a financial tension while offering maximum flexibility in the provision of multiple skills. There are direct and mini-competition selection methods for the individual PSC service packages, for which lump-sum, target-cost and cost-reimbursable commercial models are available. This ensures that each of the suppliers receives a fair share of the budgets available through direct award while allowing a comparison of skills and approaches on the more challenging assignments.’
Framework manager Terrie Coake adds that the FC and PSC have lived up to their expectations. ‘The NEC obligation to act in a, “spirit of mutual trust and co-operation,” has provided the impetus for trust and openness between all parties. It provides a strong platform for collaborative working and proactive identification and resolution of risks. Furthermore, the NEC early warning notification process is enabling rapid identification of problems and engenders a collaborative approach to mitigation and resolution.’
She says while each service package is managed by individual project managers, the overall framework is coordinated by a framework manager. ‘This ensures there is a consistency of approach in contract management, monitoring of key performance indicators, dispute management and the use of the Cemar contract management system. It also encourages the use of innovation, such as virtual public consultations.’
Benefits of using NEC
- NEC obligation to, ‘act in a spirit mutual trust and co-operation,’ provided a strong platform for trust, collaborative working and proactive identification and resolution of risks.
- NEC is now the council’s standard procurement route so suppliers were familiar with the contract management process required.
- NEC early warning notification process enabled rapid identification of problems and engendered a collaborative approach to resolution.
- Choice of NEC payment options allowed risk to be allocated properly based upon the information provided by the client.