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Carillion inquiry | Changes to quality assessment needed

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The government is to reassess how it judges the quality of tenders during the procurement process, a senior civil servant has told MPs investigating Carillion’s collapse.

An internal Cabinet Office inquiry will investigate how government departments rate the quality of bids so that price does not become the deciding factor in awarding contracts, the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee heard.

Government chief commercial officer Gareth Rhys Williams said: “We need to get better at assessing the quality factors.

“There are no bids I have seen where price is the only factor, there are always a number of quality factors that are taken into account, but the problem arises […] if we’re not acute or precise enough about how we evaluate quality. 

“If each vendor gets eight out of 10 for example, even if quailty scores are 80% of the marks, if they all get eight out of 10 then price is the only factor where there is bound to be a difference.

“We have got to guard against that and improve skills on differentiating on quality.”

The Cabinet Office internal investigation’s findings will be made public in the next few months. 

Last month National Audit Office comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse told the committee that the government must develop a more intelligent contracting strategy and be more “intrusive” into companies balance sheets before offering contracts.

He said: “If you’re a major contractor to government and you have got weaknesses in your balance sheet that have nothing to do with the public sector, the public sector nonetheless really need to know about those when assessing whether you’re suitable as a supplier.”

 

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