New COI roster framework set to address concerns

The Central Office of Information has often been accused of over-complicating public procurement, but it is confident its three new design rosters will be welcomed by designers and clients alike.

COI roster veteran Start Creative is one consultancy enthusiastic about the new rosters, including branding and brand identity, which launches on 22 October, to be followed by content and publishing, and design and related services (DW 23 September).

‘We hope that this will be a better arrangement of the frameworks,’ says Start managing director Jen McAleer, welcoming the subdivision of the frameworks into ‘lots’, each hosting between five and ten groups.

This arrangement is intended to combat the effects of 2006 EU legislation requiring all suppliers on a framework capable of performing the proposed contract to be invited to compete for each piece of business.

The COI is not keen on the new rule. ‘The directive slows things down and makes procurement more difficult,’ says COI creative director Fanny Sigler. She and COI director of publications Andrew Prince, who together masterminded the roster revamp, hope that the new frameworks will help the COI to ‘manage’ the troublesome new directive.

‘The lots should allow [consultancies] to pitch against a winnable number of groups, instead of, say, 20,’ explains Prince.

But while some consultancies seem satisfied by the new roster arrangement, could it ever please the Associate Parliamentary Group for Design and Innovation?

This summer, APGDI member and Design Business Association chief executive Deborah Dawton suggested scrapping the COI completely and allowing Government departments and agencies to procure design as they wished, independent of EU fairness laws (DW 30 July).

‘The comparison between the public and private sectors is so stark in terms of efficiency,’ agrees APGDI group manager Jocelyn Bailey.

Prince bravely attended one of the summer’s APGDI summit meetings, which he calls ‘a great forum to discuss issues’.

‘You have a design industry that fears that small consultancies will not make the cut in public tenders due to their size, and which thinks the rosters are time-consuming, ignore creativity, and are purely box-ticking exercises,’ says Prince. He claims that it was ‘good to be able to answer those fears’ during the APGDI meeting, and that he reassured those present that ‘procurement is being run by creatives who understand the creative process’.

Consultancies regularly complain that public procurement officials lack design knowledge, and Dawton has previously suggested that Government agencies procure work by employing the services of specially trained design managers (DW 30 July).

But Sigler, who has a graphic design background, finds this to be a moot point. ‘The buyers may not be design specialists, but most are marketers of one kind of another. Looking at design is too narrow in focus – we need to consider creative solutions as a whole,’ she says.

Nevertheless, Prince reports ‘having a chat’ with Dawton that resulted in the COI determining to embrace a policy of transparency for its new rosters. ‘She told us to be totally honest and clear about the procurement process, which is something that we intended to do anyway, but hearing that from her definitely spurred us on,’ says Prince. As a result, the COI will publish an FAQ document and a description of EU law ‘that we hope will give everyone all the information that they need’.

‘We’ve evolved our specific criteria for consultancies, with a lot of changes coming out of what we have learned working with designers and clients since the last review four years ago,’ says Prince.

The APGDI is set to report back on its recommendations to MPs and the COI on 11 November. ‘We are not sure what those will be yet, but scrapping the COI is not feasible,’ says Bailey.

Branding and brand identity framework

  • Tender launches on 22 October
  • It will feature 11 lots/ corporate branding; campaign branding; service branding; channel branding; events, consultation and experiential branding; accreditation marks; brand design innovation; brand engagement and guardianship; intellectual property and trademark services; brand evaluation; and a rapid-response (round-the-clock) branding service

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