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News & Press: 2017 News Items

Can we learn something from the Americans?

Monday, 05 June 2017  
Posted by: Bert vd Heever
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(...when it comes to the appointment of consultants by government)

"On April 23, 1987, shortly after the official opening of the new mega Sav-On Foods Store at Station Square in Burnaby, British Columbia, an area of the building roof-top parking lot of approximately 6400 square feet collapsed into the food store, injuring 20 people.

A Commissioner's Inquiry by the Canadian Government determined that one of the major factors that led to the ultimate collapse of the structure was the selection of the Structural Engineer on the basis of competitive bidding, with the structural design being done by lesser skilled staff of the Structural Engineer, and much of the detailing of the connections being done by the subcontractor of the steel erector.

In the Commissioner's Report, it was stated that:

"with tendering [bidding], relatively intense competition has driven fee levels down, and this has raised questions about the quality of professional services in this environment."

The Commissioner's Report went on to state that "bidding for Professional Services…caused a great deal of concern."

The report stated that one approach to correcting the situation was to "pressure the owner of the building to provide sufficient compensation to permit the Engineer to do the work properly."*

Kaye Henderson, former Florida Department of Transport Secretary wrote: "As Secretary, I inherited a system of selecting design professionals on the basis of competitive bidding. The results were uniformly negative. Price-based selections for design services don’t work. It didn’t work for the public, the agency administrators, contract managers or even office holders.

Why? Because once price is mentioned, it becomes the dominant and controlling factor throughout the remainder of the process: selection, design, construction, etc. Price suffocates decision-making and contract compliance. This old adage is true, “You get only what you pay for.”

Is there a place for discussion of price? Sure. After a selection has been made based on qualifications – “The best firm for this assignment, in this place, at this time.” Then and only then should price enter the dialogue".

Kaye Henderson wrote the above on hearing that consideration was being given to change Texas’ Qualifications Based Selection (Q.B.S.) process.

So what is QBS?

"Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) is a procurement process established by the United States Congress as a part of the Brooks Act and further developed as a process for public agencies to use for the selection of architectural and engineering services for public construction projects. It is a competitive contract procurement process whereby consulting firms submit qualifications to a procuring entity (owner) who evaluates and selects the most qualified firm, and then negotiates the project scope of work, schedule, budget, and consultant fee.

Crucially, under a QBS procurement, the cost of the work (price) is not considered when making the initial selection of the best or most appropriate provider of the professional services required. Fees for services will be negotiated, however, following selection and before contracting." **

Click here to download a guide to QBS.

Do you think that there is scope to adopt some of the principals of QBS when it comes to the appointment of professionals in South Africa given the restraints of the PPPFA?

Please share your views with us by clicking here.

* Sourced from the Illinois QBS website

** Sourced from Wikipedia

Thanks to Frans van der Walt for making me aware of the QBC - Editor