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The perfect framework

Sunday September 20th, 2009

By Morven MacNeil, GO Features Editor

Framework agreements can provide many benefits for both the public and private sector; GO looks at the latest framework agreement operated by the Pro5 Group.

Framework agreement is the general term for an agreement with suppliers to the public sector which sets out the terms and conditions under which specific purchases can be made throughout the agreement’s duration. The main purpose of a framework agreement is to set out the terms governing the contract, with particular regard to price and quantity. 

A framework agreement can also be a contract to which the EU procurement rules apply. This would be the case where the agreement places an obligation, in writing, to purchase goods, works or services for pecuniary interest. 

Buying Solutions framework agreements

Buying Solutions – the national procurement partner for UK public services – facilitates easier access to over 500,000 products and services via various framework agreements and a system of approvals for suppliers and manufacturers. While a ‘seal of approval’ from the OGC allows end users to purchase products and services with confidence, it also removes a lot of the difficulties for manufacturers and suppliers.

Status as an OGC-approved supplier is an invaluable asset, granting a business a licence to engage directly with a publicly funded body without the need to satisfy stringent tendering or selection processes. Such companies will already have been extensively vetted by the OGC.

Framework benefits

Frameworks have also been good for the public sector, encouraging stronger competition, new thinking and innovation; some of the traditional suppliers have had to ‘up their game’ considerably in response. Frameworks, with their predefined ‘best value’ selection criteria, are a highly efficient method of procurement.

From the supplier’s perspective, the introduction of frameworks removes many of the traditional barriers to market entry. This means that SMEs in particular need no longer suffer exclusion because they are not deemed a ‘big name’ or they do not have public sector experience or higher level contacts. Their very inclusion on a framework list means that they are now on a level playing field with larger organisations and can demonstrate commercial credibility to the wider market.

Yet, frameworks have many other characteristics that can make a difference, such as pre-agreed terms and conditions of contract and pre-agreed costs and pricing mechanisms. They are also managed and operated in a disciplined, open and clear-headed manner, with a controlled number of bidders, a reasonable cost of sale, timely decision-making, and debriefs for unsuccessful bidders. Frameworks therefore guarantee the best procurement practice SMEs expect to find in other markets.

However, opening up the procurement process is not about being nice to small businesses. It is about achieving best value for the public sector by engaging smart, innovative companies in a fair commercial environment.

Commercial organisations who wish to work for the public sector and gain access to its multibillion-pound contract base should only be able to do so if they can convince the buyer with a winning proposition. Organisations need to demonstrate that the value of their offering is greater than anyone else’s; that should be the public sector’s attitude too.

In summary, frameworks can be hugely positive for both suppliers and the public sector. By focusing on strictly commercial drivers for smart procurement, level markets can be created, and SMEs will be able to engage and contribute more often, to the benefit of all concerned.

Pro5 – E-Solutions Framework

An example of a successful recent framework is the Pro5 Group’s E-Solutions Framework.

Pro5 is a group of professional buying organisations consisting of the Central Buying Consortium (CBC), Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO), North Eastern Purchasing Organisation (NEPO), West Mercia Supplies (WMS) and Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO). Representing 70 authorities, Pro5 has a combined annual purchasing power in excess of £2 billion.

The Pro5 E-Solutions Framework is a national framework for local authorities which     commenced in July 2009. In this case, ESPO worked on behalf of Pro5 to lead the procurement process, in order to establish an agreement with a small number of e-solutions providers. The overall purpose served the needs of the various Pro5 members. 

The Pro5 E-Solutions Framework offers a comprehensive range of electronic tendering solutions to assist with each stage of the procurement process, and has been let in lots to allow greater flexibility for customers. The solutions available include E-Tendering, E-Contract Management, E-Document Exchange, E-Evaluation and E-Auctions.

While initially for use by local authorities served by the Pro5 Group, the framework agreement will also be open to the entire public sector, including central government departments and their agencies, as well as registered UK charities.

Kate Shaw, ESPO Group Buyer responsible for the framework, said “We conducted an extremely thorough evaluation and selection process in tendering and establishing this framework and were impressed by all successful suppliers’ technical capabilities, service and support offerings. The framework we have established now makes a variety of e-solutions available to Pro5 members and other public sector bodies at very competitive rates.”

BiP Solutions, publisher of GO magazine, has been awarded an initial two-year contract to supply its innovative Delta e-tendering suite (Delta-ets) within a framework agreement to ESPO. Delta-ets is used for handling the full life cycle of the tendering process for the public sector and its suppliers, which includes everything from initial notification and publication of contract requirements, through to receipt and evaluation of Expressions of Interest.   

BiP Solutions CEO Ron Burges said: “We are delighted that ESPO has recognised the value of Delta-ets, and are pleased to be part of this framework agreement. Delta-ets, and its constituent parts, such as Project and Vault, are used by thousands of purchasing professionals each day. Being part of this agreement will allow many others to receive the numerous benefits that Delta-ets offers.”

Delta-ets

To find out more about Delta-ets or what BiP can do for your organisation, visit www.delta-ets.com or contact espo@delta-ets.com

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