Public procurement must appreciate quality design

I have been involved over the past year in countless Government tenders, but have now given up and cancelled my subscription to the various tender sites. The process is too long-winded, bureaucratic and costly.

Very specific instructions are given as to how the pre-qualification questionnaire and tender have to be prepared. You have to go through at least two very long documents to get the slightest look in – one PQQ had more than 100 pages.

You must address the envelope and complete the form in a certain way and you must deliver before the deadline or you will be disqualified. But when it comes to receiving a response, timescales come and go with gay abandon. One document had to be completed by 4 December 2004 – the response came back in August 2005. On another occasion, the client gave out the wrong e-mail address so no-one could respond. If a design group made that kind of error it would mean instant rejection.

A monster has been created, one that no one can control. The volume of information that each Government department deals with must be massive.

As a clientside design manager of 20 years, I am dismayed by the prevailing attitude that design can be controlled by anyone – a marketing executive, a procurement person and so on. Design is complex and should be handed over to those who are trained to unravel its complexity. Design management has always been vastly underrated.

If the Government is serious about design it must be controlled by people who love it, can cut through the fluff and build a positive environment through knowledge and enthusiasm. The Design Council and Design Business Association cannot do it on their own. There has to be concerted support from within Government to reinforce the message.

Ian Welsh, Managing director, Meteor Creative, Chesham HP5 1UF

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