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Tender irregularities disrupt another Highways Agency maintenance deal

The Highways Agency has revealed that irregularities in tender bids has forced it to switch its procurement approach for the Area 8 asset support contract (ASC).

It has decided to switch to the negotiated route under European procurement rules.

This allows it to talk to tenderers about their bids, something which is not usually allowed in public procurement, where the so-called restricted route is preferred.

The Agency was previously forced to make this switch on the Area 6 ASC in February (NCE 14 March).

Amey, an Atkins/Skanka joint venture (JV), a Balfour Beatty/Mott MacDonald JV and Carillion are in the running for the Area 8 job, worth £45M to £50M a year.

Area 8 covers Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and parts of Cambridgeshire.

The Agency said all Area 8 bids contained irregularities. The ASC process has been beset by difficulties with assessing tenders since it launched in July 2011 with Area 2.

The award of the Area 2 contract in the South West in Febraury 2012 and the Area 10 contract in the North West in June 2012 were heavily delayed while the Agency grappled with the bidders’ approaches to completing the schedule of rates, which will be used to value work done.

“The tender documents submitted by the companies participating in the tender process for ASC 8, all of whom are well established and experienced suppliers within the maintenance contracting community, contained irregularities and it has not been possible to resolve them within the terms of that competition,” said the Agency.

“Rather than restart the tender process, we have chosen to take the negotiated route which we feel is the most appropriate and cost-effective route towards concluding this procurement exercise.

“The Agency is confident that the maintenance contracting market has an appetite for 
this work and is fully engaged with the direction that the Agency is taking with the ASCs,” said the Agency.

“This is borne out by the continued interest and close working relationship that the Agency continues to have with its maintenance community.”

The Area 8 contract is due for award in November.

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