11/12/2017 www.newcivilengineer.com interviews Jim O’Sullivan, the Highways England chief executive.

With regard to contracts, it is reported ‘Those contractors who are working on projects already will find that subsequent work will be awarded following a wider assessment of its performance than might previously have been expected. ‘The question was asked, ‘so what criteria will firms be judged on?’, the reply: 

“Well we’re working on that, but it would include a combination of safety, scheme delivery, value added, efficiency delivered, quality and value for money,”

“So it’s more based on value than price, I think is how I would summarise it.” – full article click here 

Good news for those whose who wish to seek information from Highways England and find themselves presented with the hackneyed ‘commercially sensitive’ exemption, section 43(2) – the ‘likelihood of prejudice occurring’ has never sat well with us and the above statements reinforce the belief price is just one factor and not as important as has been conveyed.  Indeed, the sooner contractors are aware of the ‘base rates’ (as if they do not already!) the sooner they can ignore any concerns pricing will exclude them and concentrate on those issues Jim wishes to see embraced and which will add true value to all concerned.  But this is old news, The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) was established in 2012 and in January 2017 were associated with the statement

Departing from the lowest-price-bid format when tendering for public sector projects has seen a reduction in risky behaviour resulting from overruns and overspends.

It appears prices are not being withheld because they are ‘commercially sensitive’ but commercially embarrassing and financially sensitive; disclosure would evidence Highways England’s failure to monitor contracts, enable non-compliance, failure to take action and adversely effect the profits (profiteering) of their preferred supplier(s).  

It would not be the first time Highways England has used the ‘commercially sensitive’ exemption inappropriately:

The Commissioner is left with the impression that HE has sought to withhold the information on an entirely general basis with no regard for the details of the information or the evidential threshold required to demonstrate that 43(1) and/or 43(2) are engaged. Full appeal – click here.

On 21/07/2014 12:45 Highways England wrote in response to an FOIA request CRS 708.005 that within the ASC Model Conditions of Contract there is condition 13.13 that states:

“The Provider acknowledges that the Employer may receive Disclosure Requests and that the Employer may be obliged (subject to the application of any relevant exemption and, where applicable, the public interest test) to disclose information

• (including commercially sensitive information)

Pursuant to a Disclosure Request. Where practicable, the Employer consults with the Provider before doing so in accordance with the relevant Code of Practice. The Provider uses its best endeavours to respond to any such consultation promptly and within any deadline set by the Employer and acknowledges that it is for the Employer to determine whether or not such information should be disclosed.”


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