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Interview | Victoria Brambini, Scape

Victoria brambini crop

In just under a year, Scape Group’s four year civil engineering and infrastructure  framework agreement with Balfour Beatty comes to an end.

The framework has so far covered 117 projects let on behalf of 56 clients and has been worth a total of £1.1bn.

At the time of writing, Scape is set to issue the contract notice to appoint civil engineering firms to two new, single supplier, four-year frameworks which will replace it: a £400M framework to cover Scotland and another worth £1.6bn for the rest of the UK.

looking south towards flyover

looking south towards flyover

The Perth Transport Futures project on the A9 was procured under a framework set up by Scape

Scape Group, to the uninitiated, is a procurement body that allows public sector clients to commission works through various frameworks that offer a fast route to market and the ability to use early contractor engagement to deliver the best value solutions.

Scape’s frameworks are currently used by public sector clients ranging from local authorities to schools and hospitals. The total value of all of the live frameworks currently stands at £13bn and in December there were 930 active projects, worth an aggregated £2.4bn across 500 different public sector clients.

Setting the bar high

Victoria Brambini is managing director responsible for procuring these two new second-generation civils frameworks. With four years’ experience, she is expecting the bar to be set high.

“It has gone from no previous framework, to a new partner for Scape to work with and a steep learning curve for an organisation of Balfour Beatty’s size – through working in a different way, more collaboratively with public sector clients, and also collaboratively with our other framework partners and learning from them,” she says.

This bar does not just apply to firms which are currently getting ready to submit their pre-qualification questionnaires by 9 March. It applies to their supply chains too.

Emphasis on SMEs

The new frameworks will require 85% of subcontracted spend to be with small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and there is a strong emphasis on supporting local firms and labour. “There’s a suite of key performance indicators (KPIs) within all frameworks which say the winners must commit to using local labour,” says Brambini.

So, what are Scape framework contractors and their supply chains expected to deliver? The answer is a lot more than just shovels in the ground.

When putting together the framework, Brambini is not just asking public sector clients what they want to see, she is also directing those clients whose outlook is not as up to date as others. She does so  by ensuring the frameworks are aligned with current government policy, such as that laid out in the recent Industrial Strategy.

A key element for the winning bidder and supply chain is collaboration on different levels.

The people that get placed on Scape framework projects, are chosen because of their beliefs and their behaviours

For example, Scape brings the national directors of each framework partner together once a month to discuss how they can work better and be more innovative. This also happens on a local level.

“Many clients are still hung up on the processes of procurement and the fear that a contractor is there to be contractual. The people and organisations that we engage with on the framework, and the people that get placed on Scape framework projects, are chosen because of their beliefs and their behaviours and their attitudes towards partnering,” she says.

But firms cannot simply claim to be collaborative on their bids, they must  prove they uphold Scape’s values.

Shared values

“We want to partner with organisations that can demonstrate they have the same values as Scape: that they believe in the public sector needing efficiency and value; and that they believe in the investment they make in the added value [of their work], and in the commitments they give to communities,” she says.  “This makes them partner of choice. They will then give client satisfaction, and they will get repeat business.”

Community benefits such as meeting environmental targets, communityengagement, investment in skills, school visits, and donating time or money to community projects will be measured during the framework cycle.

Scape has been working with the Social Value Portal, a firm which has set up an online system that places a monetary value on these benefits. There will be 47 of these added value measures in the new framework,grouped under themes such as local skills and employment, growth, healthier safer communities and the environment.

Our frameworks, using the NEC form of contract, impose no retentions allowable by the client

Scape will collect information at a local level from each of these projects and measure how the framework  holder, and its supply chain, is delivering them. It has calculated that Balfour Beatty has added £60M of social value through the framework so far.

Another key element of the frameworks will be a fair payment KPI. Scape expects framework holders to pay their supply chains just 19 days after work done has been validated.

“Our frameworks, using the NEC form of contract, impose no retentions allowable by the client and main contractor, so ultimately the supply chain gets paid for the work it does,” she says. The quality standards on the projects mean defects are zero to minimal, she adds, meaning retentions are simply unnecessary.

Collaboration gets the job done

“On a partnering arrangement, collaboration gets the job done well and ensures commitment to snagging without the need to withhold a standard industry norm percentage,” she says.

Brambini says even if a client prefers to sit on a retention for as long as possible, once trust is established, more modern methods of contracting and the benefits realised begin to change perceptions and attitudes.

The two frameworks will be evaluated 40% on price and 60% on quality. The aim of giving a single supplier one or both of the frameworks is to encourage the winner to invest money it would have spent on mini-bids or competitions on areas such as social value, innovation and skills instead.

“That’s what leads the market to be strong in their bid in terms of value, in terms of the rates, but also allows them to commit to doing so much more,” she says.

On time and to budget

On time and on budget is an “absolute given” for Scape, and Brambini says that while Balfour Beatty has a 100% record for this on the current framework, it will not be enough on its own for it to win the next one.

But winning a framework is not the end of the story for contractors. Throughout the lifecycle of the framework, targets will be stretched, with the aim of achieving a high standard throughout delivery.

 And for Brambini, what happens on the ground is key. “I’ve spent time with a subcontractor and he explained to me how he does ‘toolbox talks’ in terms of getting through to his team what the job’s all about.

“He’ll say you’ve not just come here to lay bricks, what you’re building is this facility, which will do this for this local authority, which communities are going to use this way. And if you engage with your people who are, putting up the steel, pouring the concrete, whatever they’re doing, you’ll get pride in the job and a quality job.”

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