Community benefits in public procurement

This report presents the findings of a pilot programme which was intended to promote the use of 'community benefit'.

9 Critical Success Factors

9.1 Organising for Success

Experience both in Scotland and elsewhere suggests that akey determining factor in the success of using targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) requirements is the combination of commitment and dedicated resources. Both of these are necessary, but the commitment of the organisation needs to be reflected in the level of resources that are applied and the way these are organised.

9.2 Culture and Resources

Both GHA and Raploch URC had the benefit of being new organisations where the commitment to 'Community Benefits' was explicit in their objectives and could be built into the culture of the organisation from an early stage. This is in contrast to Inverclyde and Dundee where CBIP pilots required a change to existing practice at a time when there were a number of changes being required and the relative importance to be given to the CBIP was not clear. This is a problem of innovation.

Both GHA and Raploch had newly-appointed staff that were able to commit time to this emerging work-stream. They were able to:

  • act as 'champion' for the initiative, in particular when working with the procurement teams;
  • identify the external resources that would help contractors deliver the targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) requirements with little extra cost;
  • determine what the target outputs should be and draft information that could be included in the procurement process;
  • identify the monitoring information that would be required and determine how this would be processed and reported;
  • act as the 'specialists' in assessing the community benefit elements of PQQs and Tenders;
  • work with contractors to help them deliver the requirements.

The pilot in Inverclyde suffered from the lack of a targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) "champion". The economic development officer who negotiated the inclusion of the targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) requirements with the procurement officers early in the procurement process was transferred to other duties before the works went on site and was never replaced. Consequently, the Inverclyde pilot did not have a dedicated officer, but sat within the remit of an existing economic development officer.

Similarly, in Dundee it appears that the procurement officers were expected to deliver the pilots without regular input from officers with knowledge of training, recruitment and external funding sources. In the construction pilots there was an expectation that external agencies would act as project champions.

The 'Falkirk approach' has been designed in anticipation ofthe problems of embedding the new initiative within theexisting Council organisation and priorities. During the Programme they have focused on 'mainstreaming' the commitment to using contractual leverage to secure targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) In the process they have been seeking voluntary outcomes and building up the staff infrastructure to assist in setting targets and monitoring outcomes.

The GHA and Raploch examples demonstrate that the key element of the system is a "champion" for the Community Benefits who knows what can be expected, routinely supports the work of the procurement team and then works with the contractors and their 'Community Benefits supply chain' to ensure that the requirements are met. This person may be best placed to act as the contract manager for CBIP aspects of the procurement.

9.3 Roles and Responsibilities

Contracting authorities need to establish a "process map" setting out who is responsible for the different elements of the championing, procuring, implementing and monitoring the Community Benefits specified. Stakeholders to the process should be involved in developing the specification.

In some cases there was a lack of understanding amongst procurement officers about 'what is required and why'. Such confusion was usually due to a lack of clear commitment on the part of the authority and a lack of a dedicated project champion. Also, in some cases the successful bidder did not adequately comply with the tender requirements or the contractor made no serious attempt to deliver the targeted recruitment and training ( TR&T) contract requirements. Awarding contracts to non-compliant bidders or ignoring breaches of contract is counter to the principle of transparency and may lead to legal challenges from other bidders.

9.4 Requirements Specification

Another lesson from the CBIP pilots is that considerable thought needs to be given to the TR&T requirements from the very beginning of the procurement process. The key questions in determining and formulating the requirements should be:

  • what are the priority 'Community Benefits' that can be addressed through this particular contract within the framework of EU regulations and VfM?
  • what are the cost implications of including different Community Benefits, and different output targets, and how are these costs to be met?
  • what Community Benefits can be included without putting at risk other key priorities, e.g. VfM, quality and the timetable for completion?
  • what is the best way of measuring the community benefit requirements - for the purposes of both target setting and monitoring?
  • how will the client team manage the monitoring of information and who will undertake progress-chasing on the community benefit elements?
  • how will account be taken of contractors that are currently training recruits taken on under a previous community benefit clause to avoid discrimination against these organisations?

9.5 A Systems Response

Community Benefits need to be defined for individual contracts. However, there will be benefits in adopting a systematic approach to incorporating TR&T. These include:

  • implementing an approach that ensures compliance with procurement and good practice e.g. in appropriate procurements the Contract Notices will include wording that will allow community benefit requirements to be included as a core requirement;
  • involvement of a stakeholder group in the procurement that has the skills to set appropriate targets and score responses in the award process;
  • an appropriate output monitoring and reporting arrangement can be set up and resourced;
  • external funding and services can be arranged so that contractors are better able to deliver the requirements at little cost to the contracting authorities.

9.6 The Supply-side

The case studies demonstrate the importance of having an appropriate 'supply-chain' that the contractors can use to deliver their recruitment and training requirements. To maintain a level playing field between bidders it is important that information and contacts for this potential supply-chain is included in the tender information.

This supply-chain potentially includes public sector training organisations, screening and job-matching services, small business support agencies and funding providers, and can:

  • reduce the cost to the contractor and therefore the contracting authority by bringing in external resources, e.g. training grants;
  • provide easy access to the target beneficiaries;
  • supplement the training and recruitment skills of the contractor;
  • help the contracting authority's officers by providing verification of the outputs.

It has been argued above that the supply-side services that are available should be a key factor in deciding what community benefit requirements are included in the specification. This was a core part of the success of the Raploch and Inverclyde case studies.

9.7 Training and Funding Mismatches

However, the Dundee and GHA case studies illustrate problems related to reliance on the supply-chain to facilitate the delivery of the Community Benefit requirements.

Whereas a contractor's supply-chain for most services and supplies includes many potential sources, this is not the case with publicly-funded training and job-matching suppliers. Here policies, priorities and resource allocations are determined by funders rather than either the beneficiaries or the prospective employers. This creates considerable instability since funding regimes can change almost annually - sometimes at very short notice - on the basis of national policies.

For example, in Dundee the training provider on one of the schools projects was no longer able to obtain Jobcentre Plus funding to engage their 'traditional' client group of under-achieving young people because the priority had shifted to an older age-group, but there was insufficient take-up from the latter group at the time the opportunities became available. 50

In addition to this, supply-side agencies expect to determine their working method, but this may not match the requirements of the contractor as set out in the contract. For example, training organisations will have a training regime that they offer to contractors and may not be comfortable with the contractor - the employer - deciding what is needed.

Clearly, these problems can be reduced by designing the community benefit requirements to fit with the existing supply-chain. However, the risk is that these resources may be relatively unstable.

There are different 'solutions' to this for different durations of contract:

  • for longer-lasting contracts (like the GHA contracts) and those with a more uncertain timetable the onus to resolve the supply-side issues has to be transferred to the contractor. It may also be necessary to be more flexible about the types of beneficiary so that these can be varied as external funding regimes change;
  • the design of a responsive demand led training and employment infrastructure for larger, long-term contracts; 51
  • for contracts that will be delivered within the time-frame of existing funding and policy regimes (like the Raploch roads contract) the requirements can be designed with the current supply-side agencies, using the available resources.

Alternatively, bidders may decide to include training costs in their tender.



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