More on CCS Consultancy Framework Suspension – MCA Not Happy!

The reverberations continue around the CCS decision to scrap Lot 1 (Business Consultancy) on their Management Consultancy tender which was expected to be awarded any day now. The Management Consultancies Association and their members are, as you might expect, really not very happy, and had this to say officially:

We are extremely disappointed to say the least at this turn of events. Our industry has collectively invested greatly in the new framework. We offered our advice on how to build it but CCS were not able or willing to take forward many of our suggestions. 

A key to going forward more successfully will be to minimise the additional cost and time-lost for firms and finding some way of compensating bidders for their investment.”

(This article from Government Computing back in January has some quotes from Alan Leaman, CEO of the MCA, which suggested the sort of areas that frustrated the MCA in terms of the initial framework design).

It will be interesting to see if bidders do push for some sort of recompense for their time and effort, which the MCA seems to hint at. Smaller firms in particular (not all MCA members, we should point out) may be hesitant about bidding again; and this has cost millions of pounds in totally wasted time and effort across the industry, unfortunately.

We’ve asked a few people for any insight on what exactly went wrong; you may remember that the words used by CCS were:

"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".

But this Lot was expected to include 40 suppliers – that would seem to be enough to handle a few firms who maybe weren’t quite up to the best “quality of delivery” surely? So, being somewhat cynical by nature, we suspect that there was something that just didn’t “feel right” about the composition of that final list.

So there are several hypotheses. The first is that not enough smaller firms made it onto the list, and because of the government’s focus and target (33% of spend) in that area, there was pushback from senior levels, maybe even Ministerial.

The second option is that just not enough firms got through. The requirements meant bidders had to cover quite a range of capabilities, so even with consortia bidding, perhaps the final list just didn’t look big enough.

Or perhaps some of the biggest firms who everyone would expect to make it comfortably onto the list didn’t. that would bring real credibility problems for CCS. If an EY, PwC, or KPMG for instance was not there, that would raise eyebrows and could be embarrassing, particularly if it was a firm that Cabinet Office itself uses extensively.

But is it likely that such an outcome could have transpired? Well, the scoring and award were based on  questions which were not terribly taxing, and the scoring system was fairly black and white. So it is possible that many of the bidders got through those questions with pretty much maximum marks. (We hear that seems to have been the case in Lots 2 and 3 for Finance and Audit Services, which are being awarded, subject to the standstill period). In that case, it would all come down to the price comparisons and evaluation, and you can see how the big firms might lose out at that point if (and it is a big if) there were a high number of bidders.

The other possibility is that some sort of cock-up in the process was discovered; anything from an undeclared conflict of interest, to some information given to certain bidders but not others. That seems unlikely and does not fit the explanation given (such as it is).

We go for the “large firm(s) missing” explanation as the most likely, but the lack of choice possibility should not be discounted. But if either of those are the case, it is not a satisfactory explanation for all the firms who did make it onto the list but may now have to start again.

Late news - we got this statement from CCS yesterday afternoon. Not sure it adds a lot of insight but clarifies matters on the other Lots:

We can confirm that Lot 1 of the Management Consultancy Framework, which covers business consultancy services, has not been awarded. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to companies who had bid, but it is important that we are able to offer a service that would meet all of our customers' needs now and in the future.

"To address this, we are running a further procurement exercise with a broader scope. A new prior information notice - Management Consultancy Framework Two - has now been issued as part of our ongoing engagement with suppliers. The intention is to award this framework in 2018.

"Lots 2 and 3 of the Management Consultancy Framework have been awarded and are available for use. The remaining lots 4-8 will be awarded in October 2017 as originally planned."

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