Exclusive – Lot 1 of Crown Commercial Service Consultancy Framework Scrapped

We picked up last week that the Crown Commercial Service framework for Management Consultancy services has run into problems. An email was sent out to all the bidders saying this;

CCS can now confirm that Lot 1 of RM3745 Management Consultancy framework, which covers business consultancy services, will not be awarded.

There was a construct error in the criteria for Lot 1 which did not adequately assess the Bidder's quality of delivery to the level required. CCS identified the error and is now quickly taking action to provide a solution that will meet customer needs. It is in the interest of all parties to get a solution in place in the most effective and compliant way as soon as possible. A further procurement exercise will be undertaken and the scope of services will be broader to ensure that the framework can meet customer needs.

A Prior Information Notice (PIN) reference RM6008 will be issued shortly to allow CCS to engage with the market to achieve this.

I was personally involved in the three (or maybe four) previous CCS / OGC consulting frameworks as a bidder or working to help firms bidding, an SME in one case and a giant firm in another. This is the first for a while in which I haven’t had any close involvement so I can’t give any detailed insight into what has gone wrong. But Government Computing reported in July that there were delays, with rumours that “the delay may have been caused by too many suppliers qualifying under the CCS marking scheme”.

In any case, we are trying to find out more about what exactly his driven this announcement. And does this mean that other Lots will be awarded? Lot 2 is Finance and Lot 3 is Audit; they are the other Phase 1 lots. But the key question is - what was the problem, seen as serious enough to drive this embarrassing step for CCS?

Because this is embarrassing to the organisation. As one of the highest profile and highest spend framework area for CCS, the reputational risk spills over even into the political arena, as the most senior consultants work at Ministerial level. You can imagine McKinsey or EY having a quiet word with the Minister or Perm Sec and saying, “shame about that CCS foul-up, eh?”

The costs for all the bidders are significant too, particularly in proportionate terms for SMEs. If there is to be another procurement exercise, more time, resource and money will be spent by large and small firms alike. We would expect to see some howls of anguish from the industry side soon!

Despite its retrenchment away from the centralisation agenda of the previous management, CCS has bold plans to grow its business. We don’t want to speculate too much without knowing what has happened here, but one thing is clear - this does not exactly build confidence in its ability to deliver those plans.

Voices (7)

  1. Bob:

    Surely the sensible, and far less embarrassing, thing to do would have been to award Lot 1 anyway, even if it was missing some or all of the big players, and then come out for a “large multi-specialism” framework to be awarded in 2018 which could be framed such that only large firms would get on it. I seem to recall OGC had previous for such a tactic the last time they made such a cock-up.

  2. Kenneth Jenkins:

    I believe the issue was that the questions asked in Lot 1 did not do enough to distinguish between a competent SME who could deliver small to medium assignments and the bigger suppliers who could deliver large assignments. As the competent SMEs could therefore score full marks on the “quality” questions, the list of 40 winning suppliers was heavily influenced by price, and so the a nmber of the major professional services firms missed out. As the Management Consultancy framework was the main route for central Government at least (and most of the public sector) to access consultancy services, having a framework with 40 SMEs on it and none of the big firms would make it a mockery and hence it was pulled.

    What is surprising is that this was surely clear to CCS in February when they first saw the responses, yet it was not until six months later that they pulled this lot and decided to start again. This is where questions should be asked about the competence of the team running this – they could have pulled lot 1 in March or April and kicked off a replacement for this at that stage rather than the shambles now being faced of probably having to extend Consultancy ONE.

    1. Dan:

      So they’ve essentially pulled a framework because it had too many SMEs on it? That’s an interesting approach, given they have an objective of using more SMEs….

      1. Kenneth Jenkins:

        That is what I believe to be the case. I can understand to some extent as whilst creating a route to market for the small consultancy with half a dozen consultants is a noble aim, telling customers who want to do a £50m programme that they have to use one of 40 such firms rather than working with a major professional services firm would meet resistance and lead to the framework having no credibility.

        When they rework it, CCS needs to tread a fine line between having a SME-friendly framework and having a framework where the SMEs have a chance against customers who want to use their Big 4 friends. On Consultancy ONE much of the work went down lot 1 (multi specialist programme delivery) because that was the easiest place to engage CapGemini, Deloitte, EY, KPMG, PA, PWC), rather than specialist lots where many of the SMEs resided.

        1. Dan:

          And yet we’re constantly being told that we don’t need to use big firms because SMEs can form consortia to do the same job. It looks like the CCS is caught between a rock and a hard place – it loses credibility either way

          Thanks for the insight though!

  3. Sheena Kocherhans:

    ESPO have a national framework in place that covers Business Services amongst various other consultancy provisions. Happy to discuss with anyone who requires a solution given the news in the article above.

  4. John Jones:

    Peter,lots 2 and 3 have now been awarded.

    Keen to understand about Lot 8 ( Digital/ICT)

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