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This article should be compulsory reading

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The article by Richard Haut on the implications of the government's current thinking on building procurement (aj 29.4.99) is the most intelligent analysis on this subject I have yet read, since aj's previous coverage has consisted of news stories and the occasional warning, rather than a truly honest facing-up to the implications of what is now upon us.

Haut draws attention to the fact that, despite existing evidence that the people most affected by the outcomes of design choices are reasonably happy with existing procurement methods, these are due for radical change.

Why? The government's obsession with 'single-point responsibility' rather than the long-term results of the buildings they end up with from a design point of view, means that the way in which public sector buildings are to be commissioned is about to be skewed as though buildings were the same as missiles or oil rigs.

Reading the definition of 'prime contracting' in the same article, this is absolutely clear. Incredibly, there is not one reference to design in this quagmire of gobbledegook management-speak - instead we are told that prime contracting drives out 'single-project adversarial relationships'.

This is simply an invitation towards cosy cartels of the sort which the Ministry of Defence has encouraged for decades - and which occasionally blow up into major scandals (even greater in the us).

It is about time that the virtues of true competition, not based on the lowest price but by the proven delivery of value, made a comeback. The current government cannot be blamed for the sins of the past, but it can certainly be blamed for a blind reaction to them which assumes that one simple-minded system must be better than the last. It simply won't do.

Gerald Beechland


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