CCS Consultancy Framework – Are Users Looking For Alternatives?

Our previous articles on the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Management Consultancy framework – where the largest “lot” for general business consulting has been scrapped just as the award decision was expected – have drawn some interesting comments. Do take a look here.

If it was pulled because certain large firms didn’t make it onto the list, as Kenneth Jenkins suggested in his comments, then firms that were selected prior to the decision being made to abort might feel they have a strong moral (if not legal) case for compensation. This is not a case where you run a competition for a single contract then decide no-one meets the requirement; this was to be a “lot” with 40 firms listed. No-one can pretend that the list which was presumably arrived at was incapable of meeting the requirement.

So if this was the reason, it is not good news for CCS because there may be some further challenge. On the other hand, if an error in the process was discovered that could have led to a challenge, then that might make the decision more explicable, whilst still not excusing CCS from some blame.

We don’t know how many firms bid, but we do know that there were several consortia that brought a high number of smaller firms together. We’ve talked to a few firms and they reckon the cost of bidding is at least £10K for a small firm and potentially a lot more for a large organisation, who will have whole teams working on this.  Firms had to get a data security accreditation for a start, which for SMEs was probably new and cost over £500 a time. So this is a multi-million pound cost to the industry – money  wasted by the look of it.

Because of that, we do feel an independent review is needed. If CCS does not want to involve someone like the MCA in that (the Management Consultancies Association, who we know did offer to help in designing the framework), then perhaps National Audit Office could take a look?  We also heard last week that the announcement of the Lots 4 - 8 result has been delayed. That’s only by a couple of weeks, but “that’s what they first said about Lot 1” as our contact said.

However, there are always winners and losers. One of the comments on our previous article came from ESPO, one of the leading local government collaborative buying organisations. They pointed out that their consulting framework is open to be used by all public bodies.

The same applies to the NEPRO solution, let by NEPO in the north-east, delivered by Bloom and open to all public bodies.  That is a “neutral vendor” arrangement, with a dynamic supply chain, that probably offers the most flexibility in terms of how buyers use it and choose their consulting service providers*. There are other frameworks too – the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) appears to run one, and we suspect there will be more in the NHS sector too.

It is worth noting that CCS has already extended ConsultancyOne, their previous framework, beyond the original OJEU and contractually agreed timescale. Whilst it is unlikely that the European Commission will immediately take legal action against CCS or the UK government for this breach of the regulations, it is technically not a legally compliant framework now and users should be aware of that. We suspect many will be looking for alternatives.

 *Bloom is a sponsor of Spend Matters UK/Europe.

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