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CIC campaigns for designby quality, not by fee

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The Construction Industry Council has launched a bid to end commissioning of design consultants on a lowest-fee basis for public-sector work. A report sent to the government says that choice should be based on quality standards. There should be 'a mechanism for best value soaking through the public-procurement process,' said cic chief executive Graham Watts.

A cic document published this week, Guide to Quality Based Selection of Consultants: a Key to Design Quality, sets out ways of measuring quality using a two-step evaluation method, before and after an interview. Various criteria are given a weighting and then ranked by each reviewer, and the weighted rankings are totalled to put the consultants in order of desirability.

This system has been used in the US since the 1930s and is also commonly used in Australia. The uia has adopted it as policy. Architect John Wright, chairman of the cic business college, said: 'My firm has used it to appoint other consultants and for the appointment of contractors. It works amazingly well.'

A draft of the report has been sent to the government for consideration as part of its study of procurement methods. Watts said: 'We are looking for a gradual adoption of qbs (quality-based selection) through the public sector'. He does not, however, expect it to become part of legislation, although the Irish have chosen to do this. That, plus the adoption of qbs in Germany, contradicts the last government's view that the ec services directive on competition ruled out the adoption of qbs. Both Spain and Germany have taken legal advice which shows this is not so, said Wright.

The main barrier to its universal adoption in the uk is, said Wright, that 'most local authorities have still to change their standing orders. This means that intellectual services are still tendered like soap powder or street cleaning. The government has yet to change that.'

The document costs £15 from the Construction Industry Council, tel: 0171 637 8692.

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