Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton has agreed to work with civils consultants to address his concern that some are shaving costs by sacrificing design quality.
Dalton agreed to broker a meeting between his procurement department and the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) to get clarity on the Agency’s expectations over consultants’ performance.
The move comes after ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin met Dalton last week to discuss his claim that suppliers are striving to make savings demanded by the Agency by using less experienced staff.
“I do fear that some of the shaping of costs is coming from the quality of input,” Dalton told NCE last month. “For example, by using lighter people in design,” (NCE 22 September).
Dalton was particularly keen to discourage the practice of consultants sending design work to overseas design offices to reduce costs.
“My question [to the Agency] was ‘what do you want?’ The industry is facing tremendous pressure”
“We recognise that our biggest suppliers have offices around the world and that with modern communications networks you can send stuff elsewhere to be designed,” he said.
“But I am not going to encourage it.”
Dalton’s comments raised concern in the industry, with consultants’ highways bosses pressing Ogunshakin to get clarity on the Agency’s position.
“My question [to the Agency] was ‘what do you want?’” said Ogunshakin. “The industry is facing tremendous pressure. Clients want consultants to cut back on costs, but they also want good quality design.
“We need to sit down with the Agency’s procurement department and work through the process, find out what part is failing and engineer a solution. We need clarity on what is required by the client.”