The design & build procurement route, with the elimination of effective independent oversight by a project Engineer or Architect, has been cited in official reports as a substantial contributory cause of the widespread use of dangerous materials on tower blocks and shoddy workmanship across public sector buildings in Scotland.
However, Kier chief executive Haydn Mursell says that “the early and close involvement of private sector contractors in the initial stages of a scheme tends to result in better outcomes – not least for the taxpayer.”
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph this weekend, he says that engaging contractors for the design and planning phase of the project is more “cost-effective”. He advocates integrated project teams and partnering to reduce overall project risk. He does not mention the quality issues that have blighted the industry, leading to school walls falling down and council tower blocks going up in a blaze with no effective fire control designed in. Design & build procurement has been implicated in both.
The Cole Report, published in February 2017, blamed the design & build procurement route and consequent lack of independent supervision for the collapse of a wall at Oxgangs Primary School in January 2016.
Lack of effective independent oversight of refurbishment work has also been identified as why unsuitable cladding was used by contractors on the Grenfell Tower, contributing substantially to the high death toll when it caught fire last June.
The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has set up a commission of past presidents to investigate the crisis in build quality that has emerged since the rise of design & build procurement. Mr Mursell makes no reference to this, focusing purely on the short-term financial benefits.
Hayden Mursell, billed by the newspaper as 'Voice of Business', uses the same article to call for a raft of Britain’s biggest contractors to be banned from public sector projects.
He does not name them, but by implication Mr Mursell says that BAM, Carillion, Costain, Multiplex, Sir Robert McAlpine and Amey should be slapped with a government ban unless and until they join the likes of Kier, Balfour Beatty, Morgan Sindall and Interserve in the 5% Club.
The 5% Club was set up by Balfour Beatty chief executive Leo Quinn in October 2013 to promote in-company training. It was incorporated as a company in July 2016 and has applied for charity status. Members sign up to a commitment to have 5% of their directly-employed staff on apprentice or graduate training programmes.
“We believe membership of the 5% Club or a 5% commitment to apprentices and graduates should be a prerequisite to be eligible to bid for public projects,” Haydn Mursell writes.