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Author: Hannah Butterworth

5 things you are responsible for if you’re managing subcontractors

As subcontractors aren’t full-time, or regular employees of your business, it can sometimes be a difficult task to manage their roles and responsibilities, on top of your daily job. But, it’s important that you monitor them as much as you do your own employees, if not more.

Subcontractors are viewed by the client as an extension of the primary contractor, and a failure by the subcontractor can have an adverse effect on the reputation of your company. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, here are five things that you are responsible for when managing subcontractors:

1. Choosing competent subcontractors

As a contract manager, you’re responsible for choosing the right subcontractors, should you decide to use them. And you’re responsible for determining the criteria that they must meet (this will have previously been agreed in your contract with the client).

You must ensure that the subcontractor has experience within the field of work required, and can evidence this with references and/ or project reports. You can also request that they provide you with evidence of qualifications, industry accreditations, ongoing training and health and safety training as part of your pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ).

These details will help you to determine whether or not a contractor is competent, and should be used for your project.

2. Health and safety

While subcontractors have a duty of care to ensure that the worksite their workers are sent to doesn’t pose a risk to their health or safety, it’s not solely their responsibility.

Before each job, you must perform a health and safety assessment to identify hazards and risks that could occur due to the work that will be carried out. Once these are determined, you have to take the necessary measures to reduce, or even eliminate these risks, and provide as safe a working environment as you can.

It is also your responsibility to make sure that any necessary training, or instruction is provided to subcontractors, and that they have in writing, a copy of your risk assessment and details of your health and safety procedures too.

3. Insurance

When discussing insurance for subcontractors, there can be a lot of confusion around whose responsibility it is. There are two types of subcontractors:

Labour only subcontractors (LOSC)

These are classed as employees, and need to be included under your employers’ liability insurance.

Bona Fide subcontractors (BFSCs)

These are not classed as employees, and don’t need to be covered under the liability insurance policy of your employer. However, they do need their own liability insurance, and the level of cover must be the same as the primary contractor’s policy.

It’s your responsibility to determine which category your subcontractor falls into, and which level of insurance they should have. If you’re not suitably covered, it could be the difference between an insurance claim and the end of your business.

4. Quality control

When a client hires your company, they are going to expect you to stand behind your work, even when it has been carried out by a subcontractor. This means that it is necessary to put a quality control process in place, to make sure that work is carried out accurately and will be completed on time.

It is always advised before a project begins to discuss responsibilities and deliverables with subcontractors so that they know what is expected of them, and what they’re waiting for from you. These should always be in writing.

To keep a close eye on the quality of work carried out, set out KPIs with your subcontractors so that you can determine if the project is going in the right direction, and bring it back on track should it start to sway.

5. Compliance

Sometimes subcontractor compliance can be seen as a barrier, with managers asking to see insurance policies, license, references, background checks and more before they can start work. But, it’s the exact opposite.

Now that this level of control and compliance is required, it means that if the worst should happen, your organisation is covered, and they will already have the necessary information that they need.

Looking for more information on maintaining subcontractor compliance? You should download The contractors guide to managing subcontractor compliance, to discover tips about how to manage your subcontractors more effectively.

Download the contractor's guide to: managing subcontractor compliance

10 essential guidelines for hiring contractors

Roofing_workers_fall_prevention_9253637735.jpg

Deciding to outsource work is sometimes necessary for a business, if the job falls outside your realms of expertise for instance. You need to remember that who you’re hiring is representing your business to the client, and that you’re completely responsible for the work carried out, whether you did it, or not.

This means, that you’re responsible for any mistakes, problems, or developments in a project due to their actions. Whoever you hire to represent your business must fit the bill, and adhere to your high standards while excelling in the work that you need done in terms of quality, credibility and liability.

While hiring the right contractor can be a difficult task, it’s not impossible. To make the process a little easier for you, here are 10 essential guidelines for hiring contractors:

1. Ask for evidence of license, and ongoing training

Depending on the nature of the job, it might be necessary for contractors to be accredited by an industry body to carry out the work. If you’re a contractor appointing a sub-contractor, it’s your responsibility to make sure that whoever is working for you, is capable of working safely and has the accreditations needed.

Evidence of ongoing training is also something that you should request as it shows that the contractor is keeping their skills up to date, up to standard, and has the desire to continually improve the work that they do. Ongoing training is a sign of a good contractor!

2. Request references from previous clients

Without references, how do you know that they can do what they say they can? Verifying the information that you have been provided by the contractor through references should always form part of your hiring process. It also helps to see the standard of work that a contractor can deliver, just so that you know they’re capable of carrying out the work on your project.

3. Check that they have the right insurance

Whether the contractor that you hire is bona fide, or labour only, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they have the right level of insurance just in case the worst should happen. In the case of labour only contractors, you need to make sure that your own employer’s liability insurance will cover the work that they’re going to do for you.

4. Ensure they’re health and safety trained

While you’re responsible for providing contractors with a working environment that provides low risk to the health and safety of your contractors, it isn’t only your responsibility. They also have a duty of care to ensure that the worksite they, and their workers are sent to do not pose any risks, and should be trained to carry out relevant health and safety assessments and follow procedures.

5. Find out who exactly is doing the work

Will the contractor you’re hiring do the work themselves? Or will they be hiring a subcontractor to do it? If it’s going to be the latter, you need to be provided details of the criteria that the contractor will use to employ a subcontractor (it should be a repeat of your hiring process) so that you know they’re also up to the job. Remember, you’re the one responsible at the end of the project.

6. Understand what your own responsibilities are

Before work begins, and your contract is signed, you need to define exactly what your responsibilities and deliverables are to the contractor. Whether this be providing them with paperwork, your health and safety procedure, or specific tools they need for the job, you have to understand what the contractor is expecting from you to do their job.

Once defined, ensure they’re added into the contract.

7. Get your contract signed

The contract should cover costs, brands of materials used (or items installed), approximate start and finish dates, a complete set of drawings (if applicable) with written specifications, deliverables expected from each party and responsibilities. A contract can never be too detailed.

8. Appoint a point of contact

It’s much easier to maintain contact with the same person every time you communicate about a job. Having one single point of contact per project ensures that lines of communication are always kept open, and the chances of crossed wires are reduced.

9. Agree KPIs

Monitoring the work carried out by your contractor is a vital part of any project. To ensure that your high standards are achieved, and that the project is kept on the right track, agreeing and implementing KPIs to monitor outcomes is necessary.

10. Remain compliant

Remaining compliant with regulations, and industry standards is the key to making sure that projects can run without a hitch. By following the 10 essential guidelines for hiring contractors in this blog, you’re already part of the way there… If you’d like to learn more about maintaining a level of compliance with your contractors, you should download The contractors guide to managing subcontractor compliance, for helpful tips and advice.

Download the contractor's guide to: managing subcontractor compliance

Top examples of OSHA fines for contractors in 2016

On our blog recently we have talked a lot about the importance of health and safety and ensuring that precautions are taken to create the safest working environment for contractors possible. From health and safety assessments, to training, there’s a lot that can be done to mitigate risk for workers, but what happens when protocol isn’t followed correctly?

Altius’ Managing Director, Gary Plant said:

“Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that ‘it won’t happen to us’. Every business that has experienced an incident wishes they had followed the protocols rather than taking the risk. The consequences are often devastating for the business and the people involved.

The fines are bad enough but the time lost and guilt experienced are usually much worse. Then there’s the reputational damage and cost of rebuilding customer and staff confidence. We’ve seen organisations investigated who have done all the right things, and some that have not and we know whose shoes we’d want to be in!”

Here are the top examples of safety issues OSHA have issued fines to contractors for in 2016, as revealed by the Safety Services Company.

1. Ladders

Number of inspections: 1783

Number of citations: 2362

Total amount fined: £948,817.69

Average fine: £531.74

Working at height can be dangerous if the relevant safety procedures are not set out and followed prior to carrying out the work. In the past ladders have been used where other equipment such as scaffolding would have been more appropriate. Always carry out a risk assessment and assess if the equipment is right for the task at hand and then follow up with control measures such as method statements, PPE and staff training.

2. Aerial lifts

Number of inspections: 1259

Number of citations: 1432

Total amount fined: £921819.49

Average fine: £732.09

Only contractors qualified in the practices of aerial lifts should be involved in any hoisting or lifting operation. Before any lifts begin, all involved parties need to meet to review the plan, which should include a detailed sketch of the process and will act as a visual guide.

3. Fall protection

Number of inspections: 4667

Number of citations: 5148

Total amount fined: £4,127,123.16

Average fine: £883.69

Working at height can be very dangerous, and not taking precautions to protect contractors can mean that you’ll get a hefty fine. OSHA take fall protection seriously, and by not using safe practices, not properly training employees in the use of fall protection equipment, or by not constructing or installing safety equipment – you could be fined, or worse.

4. Specific excavation requirements

Number of inspections: 770

Number of citations: 1362

Total amount fined: £1,238,148.68

Average fine: £1,607.40

Due to the dangerous nature of excavation projects, the risks can change daily, or even hourly. Precautions must always be maintained at an excavation site, and supports or battening must be inspected by a competent person at the start of each working shift, and at other specified times. No work should take place unless the site is safe.

5. General requirements

Number of inspections: 3025
Number of citations: 8147
Total Amount Fined: £5,029,179.26
Average Fine: 1,662.25

The average site is constantly changing for contractors, and with it, so are the risks. With every change, a new health and safety assessment should be conducted to highlight if there are further measures that need to be taken to protect contractors. The extra time it takes to create safe work practices are well worth the effort.

Self-assess your management of contractors

How well are you managing your contractors and their safety? Why not put your management skills to the test and download Managing your subcontractors: A self-assessment guide. The results of this assessment will highlight areas where you will need to pay further attention and offer advice for contractor management.

Download managing your subcontractors: the self-assessment guide

How to ensure the safe working of contractors in three steps

Health_and_safety

No matter what the job is, or how fast you need it to be completed, health and safety of your contractors is a step that you cannot skip. Organisations that use contractors, or subcontractors have a responsibility under Health and Safety Law to protect them from harm that could be caused by company work activities.

It is your duty of care under health and safety legislation and is non-delegable, meaning that it cannot be passed over to another party. In principle, you owe the same duties to your contractors, as you do your own employees. But, contractors still have their own duty of care to comply with regulations during their time in your workplace.

Here’s three steps to ensuring the safe working of contractors while they’re in your workplace:

Planning

When I’m pressed for time it’s easy to rush too quickly into getting someone in to do a job. In my opinion the time I take in planning a job properly is time well spent.’ Engineering manager (Chemical company, employing 45 staff).

Health and safety doesn’t start when the contractor arrives on site. You must plan. The planning step includes defining what the job is, and what you will need your contractors to do, which will then inform your health and safety assessment, highlighting hazards and risks.

You must then work to eliminate or reduce the risks to your contractors, and provide them with any information, instruction or any relevant training that could impact on their health and safety. Once you have specified health and safety conditions, it is a requirement that you record, and discuss them thoroughly with your contractor so that they are aware of all procedures.

It is vital that this process takes place before any work begins on your project.

Choosing a contractor

Choosing a contractor is an important part of ensuring safe working. You need to determine whether a contractor has the skills and the knowledge to carry out the contract to the required standards without any risk to health and safety.

In order to assess whether or not a contractor is competent, you can request that they provide the following:

Only ever use a contractor that you have determined as competent – something you should check as part of your pre-qualifying questionnaire (POQ).

As stated in the introduction, contractors must take positive steps to ensure that the worksite that their workers are sent to does not pose a risk to their health and safety. This might require the contractor to implement their own processes to ensure that their workers don’t carry out work that is unsafe.

Monitoring

The safest system of work will fail without training, instruction or supervision of the personnel involved … supervision of contractors may need to be greater than that for permanent employees if the safe systems devised are to be complied with.” HSE

Even though you have chosen a competent contractor, and planned for their time working for you, your responsibilities don’t stop there. You need to monitor and supervise them.

This can be anything from ensuring that contractors and their workers sign in and out every day, always wear site passes, and have to sign the site rules each day. All contractors must also have a contact person while they’re on site, and make contact with that person each day to inform them of how well the job is going, and whether there are any new hazards or risks that hadn’t been accounted for.

Monitoring contractors is a critical step to controlling your job. Before the contract began, you will have set KPIs, so make sure that you check what is being done, and how, whether the job is going as planned, and is abiding by your health and safety requirements. You need to be aware if there are problems so that changes and arrangements can be made where needed.

Self-assess your contractor management

Do you need to improve any of your procedures or processes for working with contractors? Why not find out by downloading Managing your subcontractors: A self-assessment guide, where you will be asked questions regarding your processes of contractor management.

The self-assessment guide after completion will highlight any areas you need to pay careful attention to, and provide you with advice for making improvements.

Download managing your subcontractors: the self-assessment guide

How compliance can help with managing subcontractors [free guide]

Managing subcontractor compliance free eBook

Subcontractors, or the contractors you employ to help carry out a project on your behalf, are seen by your clients as an extension of you – and when problems begin to occur, it’s your reputation that’s on the line.

As well as suffering from subcontractors delaying projects, failure to trust them enough means you may end up micro-managing them to get the job done, or in a worst case scenario, they create incidents on site.

Free guide to managing subcontractors

Avoiding unnecessary delays and incidents can be tricky if you haven’t got a clear process in place to assess new subcontractors, manage them correctly, and monitor their performance throughout. However, Altius, a leading supply chain compliance partner, has written a new guide designed to help you achieve better results with your subcontractors, through the use of compliance.

The free guide, The Contractor’s Guide to Managing Subcontractor Compliance, introduces three core principles that you can put into your contractor management processes to help mitigate the risks associated with working with subcontractors. This includes tips on:

Assessing subcontractor capability

Unfortunate circumstances where subcontractor’s work has failed to meet the required standards, is not an uncommon scenario. The guide will give tips on the use of bespoke PQQs to assess subcontractors, and what financial information you must collect.

Abiding by regulations and contracts

Not abiding by regulations and contracts can lead to fines and legal implications. The guide will offer advice on what you can do to ensure subcontractors fully understand the job in hand, and why a good IT system is vital to your long-term subcontractor management success.

Ensuring quality workmanship

To ensure consistently high-quality work from subcontractors, the guide covers the importance of key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as audits, and how you can monitor subcontractor behaviour through physical monitoring too.

The guide also includes a chapter on the key laws and regulations as set out by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) that you must have in place. The chapter includes vital web links to legal information too.

To start better structuring the way you’re managing subcontractors, and achieve greater transparency and performance at the same time, download the Altius’ guide to Managing Subcontractor Compliance here.

Are archaic supplier management and reporting methods holding back FM industry?

Many managers are failing to use software to manage the FM function, according to the Annual FM Software survey by Service Works Group and i-FM. In this technological age, 31% of FM organisations are still relying on spreadsheets (Excel) and 14% on paper-based tools, the survey reports.

According to the authors, such a failure to make use of modern software is “leaving (those firms) not only without global access to information for consistent management reporting, but also vulnerable to serious service failure, lack of compliance or health and safety breaches.”

FM software usage

Survey respondents (45% of which worked in-house and 31% were outsourced service providers), reported that they were, however, using FM software for:

  1. Maintenance (91% using Computer aided Facilities Management/CAFM for reactive maintenance and 88% to manage planned preventative maintenance (PPM) schedules).
  2. Asset management (72%)
  3. Contract management (47%)
  4. Mobile workforce management (35%)
  5. Health and safety (34%)
  6. Resource management (32%)
  7. Space planning and move management (29%).

Over half of the FM service providers reported that they had integrated their FM software with other systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, health and safety and financial systems.

Discover the all-in-one contractor management software >

The most significant trend identified was the move to mobile apps, with 72% of respondents reporting that they were using tablet and mobile technology as part of their FM strategy to manage contractors and operatives. This had increased from 45% last year.

Commenting on the survey, Len Simmons, Chief Operating Officer for FM compliance specialist Altius, said:

“While many FMs are utilising smart technology to manage suppliers and contractors, there’s a sizeable number who remain reliant on old fashioned paper-based or spreadsheet systems, which are no longer fit for purpose. These archaic management processes eat up multiple manpower hours and  expose organisations to risk because there’s a lack of visibility and it takes so long to retrieve essential information.”

Integrated solutions can help

He continued: “The survey also shows that nearly 50 per cent of FM providers aren’t integrating their software solutions. In the case of supplier management and supply chain compliance, If data sits in ‘silos’ across multiple platforms there will be blind spots, which can add risk and inefficiency.”

Altius’ cloud-based Exigo software enables FM providers to gain complete, real-time visibility of the compliance of their suppliers. This provides a real-time, collaborative solution that scales with their business and enables them to focus on developing productive and secure supplier partnerships.

Exigo data is flexible and can integrate with any other enterprise or back office systems to give users the complete picture based on information from across the enterprise. It can be integrated into existing finance or ERP systems, allowing users to measure compliance risk against up-to-date spend information. The data can be easily exported in a wide range of formats.

Exigo_Essentials_Free_Demo

KPIs for housing contractors: Top tips to improve their performance

KPIs for housing contractors

To ensure that your contractor abides by your contractual agreements and meets their targets, you need to have a system in place so that you can monitor their progress. As well as checking the contractor’s performance on the work they have completed, you should also ensure they meet your contractual criteria over any additional factors you need them to complete, such as CRB checks for staff working in your properties.

To monitor contractors, it is advisable for you to use KPIs. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are practical and objective measurements of progress used to monitor suppliers and contractors. Designed to compare the performance of a contractor towards a predetermined goal, or against a required standard of practice, carrying out performance monitoring ensures contractors are delivering to the standards of both their contractual output and compliance too.

These should be set at the start of a relationship with new contractors, giving you a benchmark to assess their performance. To ensure you gain the maximum benefit from implementing KPIs, here are some top tips for you to follow:

KPIs that are activity dependent

While you may ask your food suppliers to be ‘on time for their deliveries 95% of the time’, your I.T. suppliers would benefit most from a different KPI such as ‘server down time’. Tailoring KPIs to each contractor or supplier takes a long time but gives you a better assessment of how well they are performing in relation to other companies in their industry.

Don’t set the bar too high

Setting the KPI too high, especially for a new contractor, could damage the working relationships between the two parties. Understand that your contractors need time to adjust to your expectations and way of working – giving them an unrealistic performance target may mean they cut corners elsewhere to make it happen. Likewise, don’t set the performance bar too low.

Improve your social housing contractor compliance today >

Routine feedback is paramount

Use KPIs to provide routine feedback on how your contractors and suppliers are doing. Communicating these results ensures your relationship continues and that contractors don’t think their endless supply of data is simply going into a ‘black hole’.

Look for trends

Whether you discover a problem externally with the contractor, or internally within your association, KPIs can give you the statistics to take action. If for example, a contractor has failed to meet your KPIs in three years despite prompts and help – you now know it is time to make a change.

Introduce a KPI management tool

Relying on a spreadsheet just isn’t good enough anymore for procurement and health and safety managers in associations. Having a software that can accurately store and monitor KPIs can help take the burden off you, and instead put the focus back on the contractor to sort out any problem.

Monitor the ‘other’ side

Statistics alone don’t tell the story. Mitigating factors may mean that contractors have a reason for missing their KPI – this should be communicated effectively between both parties to find a resolution. Also, any work associated where your tenants are exposed to contractors should include their opinions too – after all, these are your end users.

Don’t forget their track record

Alongside their physical performance, judging the track record of contractors in their administration and communication with you is essential. As an association who demands the upmost compliance with all of their contractors, it’s important that you monitor when essential information comes back to you – such as insurance documents, certifications, etc.

For more tips…

For more tips on keeping contractors and suppliers compliant by using KPIs, take a look at the free Altius eBook, Best Practice Guide to Social Housing Contractor Compliance, here.

Download the Best Practice Guide to Social Housing Contractor Compliance

Don’t forget your PQQs: Altius launches checklist for housing managers

A free new tool to assist housing associations and social landlords in appointing and managing contractors has been launched by supplier assessment and compliance specialist Altius.

The ‘All-in-one PQQ Checklist for Housing Associations‘ helps managers to define a bespoke contractor questionnaire to reduce risk and increase performance when outsourcing.

This covers both the basic information requirements housing associations must include in a PQQ, plus key additional information, for example; CRB checks, compliance with the Modern Slavery Act, working with vulnerable adults, and enhanced health and safety details.

Streamline and automate

The checklist also includes tips on implementing a new PQQ into current contractor management processes and how to streamline and automate the process using specialist software systems.

Len Simmons, Chief Operating Officer for Altius, said:

“Despite the assistance from the Government on PQQ best practice, mandatory information covered by PAS91 and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 is sometimes not enough.”

“Managers responsible for procurement, contracts and health and safety are routinely using adapted PQQs  to screen and manage their suppliers, particularly during the due diligence process, to ensure effective appointment and ongoing management of their contractors. Our checklist makes this task easier and ensures that nothing is forgotten.”

Download ‘All-in-one PQQ Checklist for Housing Associations

Download the all-in-one PQQ checklist for Housing Associations

New social housing contractor policies every association should have

Social housing contractor policies

Keeping on top of contractor management is difficult – even collecting updated insurance information every year can be a painful task, let alone checking the actual work that contractors do for you. When it comes to keeping your most active contractors compliant, you should have in place a set of rules and policies for them to adhere to, depending upon the activity they are set to carry out.

To ensure you and your contractors are always compliant in the wake of new and recent legislation, make sure your housing association has the following social housing contractor policies in place.

CRB checks

Now under the ownership of the Government’s Disclosure & Barring Service, a CRB check is a record of an individual’s unprotected convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings that can also include intelligence held by the police that relates to an individual and their suitability for a job position.

With many housing associations providing homes to the elderly, people with mental health problems or disabilities, vulnerable families with children or even younger single people, it is a requirement that anyone who is carrying out work for the housing association to have an enhanced CRB check. Find out more about CRB checks on our blog.

Health and safety sentencing guidelines

The new Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines have been described as the most dramatic change to health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. The new guidelines have been introduced to give courts comprehensive guidance for offences and also introduce a structured nine-step approach that the Court should follow, so as to calculate sentences correctly. More on sentencing guideline here.

The revised penalties for these guidelines have increased dramatically and it is expected that in the event of a conviction, the newly revised penalties will have a substantial and damaging impact on the convicted business, compared to that of previous sentencing guidelines penalties.

Modern Slavery Act

As of January 2016, the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) is in force. While the obligation falls only on large housing associations (those who turnover £36m), smaller housing associations can publish a statement if they wish, and it would be considered best practice for this to be the case.

Improve your social housing contractor compliance today >

The obligation on a housing association to consider whether such crimes exist within their business extends to its supply chains. By outsourcing or sub-contracting, housing associations need to consider how to carry out the necessary checks and standard terms should be introduced with contractors to ensure that they are aware of the housing associations stance on modern slavery. More about the Modern Slavery Act.

Public Contracts Regulation

For associations still within the public sector, you will fully understand the role of the Public Contracts Regulation created by the European Commission already. With the aim of cutting procurement costs and implementing a fairer tendering process, the new regulation has meant a lot more work for procurement managers in particular.

Although this regulation doesn’t affect the work contractors do on a day-to-day basis, it does impact the way they tender for work, and how a potential contract could increase/decrease in size depending upon requirements and performance. More information on the Public Contracts Regulation.

Corporate social responsibility

The call for all associations to embrace a more sustainable and economical future has been met cautiously by the majority, despite the introduction of the Public Services Social Value Act in 2013. The act was introduced to encourage procurement in the industry to think about social value when assessing the viability of contractors and suppliers.

While value for money is still seen as the overriding factor for procurement, associations are urged to work with companies that are making a positive economic, social and environmental impact – something that should be questioned during the PQQ or due diligence process.

Importance of policies and rules

Ensuring and evidencing that suppliers are operating in line with policies and rules is just the start. You need to ensure that contractors have read your policies and rules, they understand them and are complying with them on a daily basis.

For this to happen, you or your team need to personally source the correct documentation, send and approve the fact that the new contractors have understood what’s been given to them. Another time-consuming job, but one that is incredibly important.

Outside of the policies and rules that you set specifically for your contractors, keeping on top of legal changes can be a burden. To help you create, implement, and monitor these contractor policy, take a look at the free Altius eBook, Best Practice Guide to Social Housing Contractor Compliance herehere.

Download the Best Practice Guide to Social Housing Contractor Compliance

Five common oversights in housing association procurement

Common oversights in housing association procurement

As housing association procurement teams up and down the country grapple with ever shrinking budgets and calls for more efficiency, there has never been a better time for the UK Government and European Commission to step in and help out.

A year on from the implementation of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, housing associations are now on target to achieve a 10% cost efficiency through the new legislation, but is there more that procurement teams can do to achieve even greater efficiencies?

Below, we take a look at just five common oversights that you and your team may have missed, and how they can help you maintain a quality level of service while being as efficient as possible with your budget.

Fully embrace the digital future

Social housing procurement teams have already embraced the digital era, making use of e-sourcing platforms, PQQ tools, and online procurement organisations.

You will be aware that in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, social housing procurement is expected to be fully digitised by 2018 – less than two years away. While industry sources, such as Inside Housing, were quick to point out that this process would mean more work for procurement teams upfront, the standardisation and time saved through keeping contractor and tender documents online could be significant.

Moving towards a fully digitised future before the 2018 deadline not only means that you’re not rushing around last minute to comply, it also means you can safeguard the future of the association’s procurement procedures, and start seeing a real efficiency benefit earlier.

Screening new contractors thoroughly

PQQs, as you know, are a great way to gather essential information from contractors before moving onto the next step of the tendering process. Asking the right questions associated with the products or services that you are requesting, can inform your team better when it comes to making decisions.

Unfortunately, many associations still use standardised PQQs that have simply become a necessity in the process, rather than a way of extracting useful information. However, screening new contractors thoroughly with a bespoke PQQ, something we talk about more in our All-in-one PQQ Checklist Guide, can give you a greater understanding of who is right for the job – saving time sourcing and getting the job done quicker.

Gain a better understanding of your prospective contractors >

This has become even more essential following the updates to the Public Contracts Regulation whereby associations test for contractor and supplier capability and financial strength until the contract has been awarded. Likewise, it has now become harder to exclude bad suppliers who have submitted for a new tender. Because of this development, there has never been a better time to get your PQQ template right.

Don’t discount SMEs

In a push to spread the wealth from public contracts across the full spectrum of contractors and suppliers, an initiation by the Government has been introduced to include SMEs in future work. Public housing associations with contracts over £25,000 and under the EU tendering threshold will be automatically added to the Government’s contracts website.

While PQQs will be scrapped for this service, essential health and safety, insurance and financial information will be gathered to ensure contractors meet the most basic of requirements. While associations may have good relationships with larger organisations, the chance to save money, and potentially get a better product or service, could mean that working with SMEs is the best option going forward.

Pushing for a bargain

You wouldn’t be in procurement if you didn’t get a buzz from achieving a bargain. While some associations do still accept the first tendering quote that comes through to their email, rule changes have meant that pushing for a bargain has never been so accepted or standardised.

While the trick of accepting a supplier tender and then working with them to reduce the cost has now been killed off, new legislation means associations can still get a better deal while feeling they’re not pushing suppliers too hard. Post-tender negotiations mean that you can go back to all tendering companies and ask them whether they wish to stick or twist with their initial quote. Pushing the onus back on the suppliers like this, knowing they’re still in competition with other firms, may see a larger discount than you imagined.

Contract growth flexibility, at last

Common sense has prevailed. The regulations around the growth of an initial contract with a supplier or contractor has been relaxed for over 12 months now. This means that:

Instead of simply guessing on the size of the project where your knowledge is limited, you can now work strategically with a contractor or supplier to get the job done in the allocated time frame. If you need the extra budget to make it happen, as long as it falls within the percentage boundaries, you can concentrate on making this happen, rather than re-tendering.

The all-in-one PQQ checklist

If saving money and becoming even more efficient is your goal for your housing association, than starting to take another look at these five common oversights above will help you refocus your efforts.

This all begins by taking a look at your internal processes, and seeing what you can do to improve and get the most from your contractors. In the free guide, All-in-one PQQ Checklist for Housing Associations, we go over the essential requirements from your pre-qualification questionnaire, following the regulation change in 2015, and how you can use PQQs to make time and money savings right from the start of the process.

Download the free PQQ checklist on our web page here.

Download the all-in-one PQQ checklist for Housing Associations

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