The Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association (North East) has elected a new chairman, who hopes to speed up recovery in the industry through a “three P” formula.
Chris Dancer, who is also managing director of Northumbrian Roads based in Prudhoe, Northumberland, intends to focus the organisation’s efforts on procurement, payment and prosperity during his two year term of office.
He has told fellow bosses of the association’s 73 member firms, located between Berwick and Whitby, that while procurement, and especially pre-qualification (PQQ) – a questionnaire stage preceding a call or invitation to tender - generates competing offers from different bidders, it can also create costly time wasting.
“Pre-qualification is now part of life but often takes up too much time to no end,” he said.
“Sometimes an award means nothing, especially once a stage is reached when the company or public body finalising its contract reduces the bidding contractors to a smaller number that will finally compete.
“I want to see PQQs streamlined by having one accreditation body cover the bidders’ financial standing, quality and health and safety.
“This process should be reviewed annually, so if you’ve got it you can move straight onto site-specific elements.”
It was his hope, he said, that further dialogue would be opened with the North East Purchasing Organisation Portal (NEPO) with the aim of creating a PQQ system that is easier for companies to work to.
Set up in 1976 to aggregate contracts and pool purchasing knowledge and expertise, NEPO is led by a joint committee drawn from members of the North East’s local authorities.
“It won’t be easy to change things but we shall try,” Dancer added.
As part of his quest, the new chairman is inviting member firms to detail their experiences and information regarding portal tendering, pre-qualifying and tendering electronically.
Taking forward his findings, he eventually hopes to see a reduction in the questions posed around quality in favour of greater emphasis on a small number of standard but scheme-specific questions.
“These would remove the subjective nature of evaluation following the invitation to tender stage, and so reduce the number of standstill period challenges,” said Dancer, who is also convinced greater use and cross-referencing of information already to hand could prevent process duplication at the actual PQQ stage.
On the subject of speedier payment for completion of contracts generally, Dancer believes it is time poor payment tactics and practices ceased.
He said: “A new construction payment charter, the Fair Payment Commitment, is being rolled out now with a view to starting next January 1.
“Eleven fair payment commitments are listed there to reduce the waits for payment - with 45 days being the targeted maximum by June 2015, and 30 days by 2018.
“It is good the list of major contractors starting to sign up is growing steadily.
“I want to see all CECA members signing up also, improving the business practices within CECA (NE) membership too.”
Greater prosperity, Dancer said, will require so-called “suicide bidding” to end, allowing enough workload to go round, and sufficient profit for firms to recruit and train people with confidence.
The companies would also be able to invest in new equipment while paying all VAT bills on time.
Dancer became managing director of Northumbrian Roads in 2000, 10 years after joining the business.
Starting out in civil engineering work at the age of 16. he has 35 years’ experience in the field, during which time he has been involved in a number of major projects including infrastructure work for Tyne and Wear Metro, the Nissan car plant, and Sunderland’s high speed test track.
He has also been involved in work on the A1 and A69 roads.
In his new role as CECA (North East) chairman, Dancer succeeds John Dickson of the Owen Pugh Group, who has been made an honorary life member of the regional bod.
CECA (NE) is one of three organisations working together in the region to promote the civil engineering sector, the others being the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Association of Civil Engineers.