I am talking next week about framework agreements at a Conference hosted by Aarhus University, so perhaps some random musings about my presentation are in order.
1. UK* regulation of framework agreements is barebones
Both the outgoing Public Contracts Regulations 2006 and the incoming Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (Draft) simply copy and paste the content of Directive 2004/18/EC and 2014/24/EU with very minor alterations. They do not solve any of the underlying issues. Nor does the OGC Guidance from 2008.
*England, Wales and Northern Ireland share the Regulations mentioned above. Procurement is a devolved power in Scotland which has its own Regulations.
2. Framework usage in the UK is going through the roof
Seriously, check my previous post here. For comparison, UK contracting authorities publish around 2,500 open procedures every year. I know we are comparing apples to oranges, but I suspect more and more money is going through framework agreements.
3. Contracting authorities are very creative when it comes to "call-offs"
As the Regulations are moot on how "call-offs" are supposed to be run and appear to leave some scope for only part of the qualified suppliers to be invited, contracting authorities in the UK are very creative on how they carry them out. All suppliers? Selection of suppliers? Rotation of suppliers? Luck of the draw? You name it.
4. No one really knows what happens inside frameworks
Frameworks are blackboxes. No one really knows what happens inside them or how much money is effectively routed through them. Contracting authorities face few risks of challenge. Contract challenging is the exception and not the rule in the UK and more so inside frameworks. My gut feeling is that framework agreements are a great place to hide unsavoury practices.
5. They are bad for competition
By definition, framework agreements exclude all suppliers except the ones inside the framework for all contracts tendered through them. As selection (at least in the UK) is focused not only in the tenders but also in the information about the tenderer, SMEs and and startups are always at a disadvantage. I could go on and on and on, but I am planning to return to this point in more detail next week.