Industry discontent rises over European tender system

The European tendering system for public sector design work via the Official Journal of the European Union, has come under fire for wielding a process that is ‘killing design’.

The criticism by one disgruntled designer follows a recent swathe of Government tenders, which have attracted hundreds of responses, generating fierce competition among small- to medium-sized consultancies.

The Energy Saving Trust was recently forced to supplement the OJEU tender process, after an announcement to select a retained graphic design consultancy attracted an ‘unprecedented demand’ of more than 200 responses.

Consultancies were asked to send in a piece of design collateral to best reflect their work, prior to filling out the pre-qualification questionnaire.

Unsuccessful consultancies were subsequently notified of their non-selection by a short, mass e-mail. The move sparked a flurry of on-line ‘chat room’ communication between groups on the list, dissatisfied at their treatment.

‘We changed the tender process to accommodate the demand. It was felt [to be] fairer,’ says EST marketing manager Eve Roberts.

The EST has shortlisted 11 consultancies and expects to make an appointment at the end of November. The selected consultancy will be working across ad hoc design and artwork projects, providing copywriting, translation and photography when required.

‘We are tendering for just one agency, but depending on the results of the process, we may extend that to two or three. We currently work with GSB Associates, Ideas Eurobrand, Beacon Graphics and Immprint,’ she adds. The Central Office of Information has a 64-strong design roster, which Government departments can tap into, but many choose to tender independently through the OJEU if work is valued in excess of £150 000.

But with no standard application framework in place or a single authority to co-ordinate design buying activity, questions of best practice are thrown up as Government bodies take matters into their own hands.

The Meat and Livestock Commission, for example, recently deferred its plans to create a design roster after undertaking an ‘on-off’ 20-month tender process.

Is design supply outstripping demand?

Energy Saving Trust tender: attracts more than 200 applicants

Department for Culture, Media and Sport review graphic design services tender: attracts 150

The Learning & Skills Council tender across regional offices: attracts 200

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