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Prisk promises to simplify procurement

25 June 2010

New construction minister Mark Prisk pledged to simplify procurement and strip away unnecessary hurdles such as over-prescriptive prequalification, Building reported.

Addressing the industry formally for the first time at a House of Commons reception held by the magazine, Prisk said that he will push for changes to prequalification questionnaires to get better value for money.

He said: “You all know about some of the needless hurdles that go on in our procurement process. We can change that. The lengthy prequalification processes for similar businesses with similar work with similar clients is something we must strip away.”

Building reported that a standard for prequalification in the public sector, which has the working name PAS91, will come into effect in September in an attempt to unify the more than 30 systems that already exist.

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors' Group, said the move had the backing of the business department and the British Standards Institute. Criteria will focus on technical proficiency, health and safety, financial standing and environmental credentials.

Klein said: “All we hope is that the new standard will be made compulsory, otherwise you are adding a whole new layer of red tape.” A survey of his members showed that £40m was wasted on differing prequalification systems.

Prisk spent 18 years working as a chartered surveyor, and Steve McGuckin, UK managing director of Turner & Townsend, said: “He seems articulate and passionate. It’s good to have someone in the role who understands the industry. The direction of the journey he was talking about appears to be a good one.”

The head of another major consultant, said: “What he was saying sounded good but it’s not about what is said. It’s about what is done. After this week’s Budget, that will be the real test.”

Prisk raised a laugh when he alluded to his 18-year career in construction: “I know how this industry works which terrifies my officials as there us nothing quite so unnerving as a minister who knows what the hell he is talking about.”

He went on to outline some of the key areas he will focus on before adding: “I am really optimistic about this sector. I think we can do it.”

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