In the current environment, saving time and maximising resources must be a key driver for all procurement decisions. With this in mind, the benefits of awarding contracts through framework agreements are legion.
Framework agreements enable you to enter the procurement process further along the journey without having to start from scratch. You can rest assured that framework providers have followed compliant procurement procedures reducing the risk of challenge, and you can be confident that the products and services on offer will be high quality, reliable and appropriate for the needs of the social housing sector.
Sometimes too much choice can be the enemy of efficiency. Choosing a supplier from a pre-established framework enables you to test the market quickly and make decisions that can be implemented without delay. Multi-supplier agreements provide you with a restricted choice based on pre-agreed and pre-tested criteria. Essentially your framework provider has already put in place many of the checks and balances that you would normally deploy before contracts are awarded.
Frameworks are organised into clearly defined categories providing a clear view of what you are buying. Organisations are enabled to go to the market once, and, in the case of single supplier agreements, avoid engaging in any competitive process. The framework provider has already reviewed the field and decided that its single supplier is the best in its class and competent to deliver the requirements of every client within its defined specialism.
Choosing a framework agreement can save money as well as time. Framework agreements exist to offer best price as part of the package and have been set up by contracting authorities specifically to meet the transparency requirements of public sector procurement. By engaging in these umbrella arrangements, you can take advantage of work already done on behalf of the sector with peace of mind.
You will avoid procurement consultants’ fees because you can trust that the correct process has already been followed in full. Framework suppliers have already been assessed for best value products and services. In addition, large providers can leverage their buying power to access the best prices through aggregation.
Framework agreements offer the additional flexibility of being divided into lots. For example, some general building lots within a framework also include paint and tools. Alternatively, you can select a lot which only contains decorative materials. A plumbing and heating lot might provide access to gas spares and renewables or you could select from a framework which carries a separate lot for gas spares alone. As a standalone lot, aids and adaptations provides options but if you only want to purchase stair lifts, you can access these through a single lot as part of another framework. The availability of lots can help you whether you need some flexibility from a supplier or have tightly defined requirements.
If you have a preferred supplier in mind because you have worked with them previously or know them by reputation, you may be able to access their services through an established framework without any further competition. If they are part of a multi-supplier framework, you will gain the benefit of being able to test the market through a mini-competition or simply make a direct award in the interests of expediency.
Perhaps the most important advantage of selecting a supplier as part of a framework agreement is the positive working relationship that you can expect to build over successive years. Framework agreements safeguard long-term commitments which enable both parties to invest in a mutually beneficial relationship over time. Suppliers benefit from the confident expectation of time to understand your business objectives, build positive working relationships, and adapt their service to meet your specific needs. You should expect to see progress over the framework period in terms of cost savings and quality improvements as you and your chosen supplier work more closely together.
One of the most critical elements of any public sector procurement decision now depends on the level of social value embedded within contracts. Since 1 January 2021, the UK government has imposed a new set of measures setting out how organisations that benefit from the £49BN public purse must contribute to the country’s economic, social and environmental goals. Measures must be designed to:
- Support post-pandemic recovery
- Tackle social and economic inequality by boosting jobs and skills
- Address the carbon footprint and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions
- Enhance equal opportunities and improve community health and wellbeing.