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Yesterday, our lawyers wrote to East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) to query their award of a contract to oversee a £70 billion framework agreement on NetZero procurement to the Place Group, a relatively small company based in Penzance, Cornwall.
We don’t understand why E2BN, a small and obscure entity, offered a framework agreement for half the annual NHS budget. We don’t understand why it, specialising as it does in broadband, offered a vast framework agreement on NetZero. And we don’t understand how the Place Group, a tiny for-profit with two employees whose website was recrafted after the contract win to focus on NetZero, came to be chosen.
A framework agreement sets out the terms of an agreement under which a public body may purchase goods or services without further open tender. It allows public bodies when contracts are subsequently awarded through the agreement, to avoid the usual rules about open advertisement and competition. But unless it is tightly drawn and specific it can provide a cloak to obscure bad procurement practice.
This particular framework agreement relates to ‘Everything Net Zero’, a plan to manage tendering for projects aimed at reducing the country’s carbon emissions. The potential spend under the agreement is huge; it covers the entirety of the public sector and is practically open-ended in the kinds of services that might be bought under it. It is a case study in poor (or worse) procurement practice.
We’ve written to E2BN, who awarded the contract to Place Group, raising these questions. Unless they are satisfactorily addressed, we are likely to issue legal proceedings.
You can read our letter here.
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