What is a Framework?
A framework sets out the terms and conditions that will govern purchases of specified goods, works or services over a defined period. A framework is not a contract in itself however when people purchase through the framework they are said to ‘call-off’ the framework – at this point a Contract is formed.
The maximum permitted duration of a framework is usually four years unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Why use a framework?
There are a number of benefits to using a framework – firstly the time to procure goods, works and services is reduced. Frameworks are usually valued over the EU procurement thresholds (£164k goods and services, £4.1m works all excluding VAT) and will therefore have been subject to the full procurement regulations. When calling off the framework you just have to comply with any rules imposed by the body that awarded the framework rather than the full Public Contracts Regulations.
Who can use them?
That depends on who was named when the framework was set up. When a notice is published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) advertising a public sector contract we have to name the parties that can use the framework or contract. If we have been named we can utilise it, if we haven’t then we can’t. The party that established the framework will be able to tell you if we have access, if in doubt ask to see the OJEU notice.
How many suppliers can be appointed to a framework?
You can have a single supplier, if multiple suppliers are appointed then there must be a minimum of 3. There are no maximum numbers of suppliers stipulated.
Where multiple suppliers sit on a framework there must be clear instructions as to how work will be allocated between the suppliers. These details are provided when the framework is established. When using the framework you must ensure that you adhere to these instructions. The organisation that set up the framework will usually have produced a ‘Buyers Guide’ giving these and other details to organisations that may wish to use the framework.
How long can a call-off contract be?
Ideally you should not let a call-off contract that is longer than the length of the framework i.e. generally 4 years. When making a call-off you should also consider what would be standard for contract length and proportionate.
Do you have to hold a standstill period or send a contract award notice each time you use a framework?
No although if you do not follow the framework rules when awarding call-offs then your contract could be declared ineffective.
Where can I find frameworks?
Lots of organisations award frameworks that the University can utilise this includes the following:
Crown Commercial Services (CCS) – this is a Government Agency responsible for improving Government commercial and procurement activity. http://ccs-agreements.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/
Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) – this is a public sector owned professional buying organisation that lets a wide variety of frameworks - https://www.espo.org/Home
The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) – this organisation lets frameworks for catering teams within higher and further education. http://www.tuco.ac.uk
Scape – this is a public sector owned organisation that let frameworks for the built environment - http://www.scapegroup.co.uk/
Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (SUPC) – this organisation lets frameworks for universities and further education collges, they have over 90 agreements in place http://www.supc.ac.uk/
Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) - CPC is owned and run by the Further Education sector https://www.thecpc.ac.uk/
There are lots more but these are the key consortia letting frameworks that the UEA utilises.
Drawbacks of frameworks
As frameworks are often awarded to cover a broad base of requirements and geographical areas they don’t always meet our specific needs.
Some frameworks don’t provide the local representation as the frameworks are hard for SMEs to get onto. This can lead to representation by big national suppliers, this doesn’t always drive best value for money.
If you ever have a requirement it is always worth looking for a suitable framework agreement before embarking on a bespoke procurement exercise. A standalone procurement exercise can be time consuming and costly in terms of staff time. Utilising a framework also provides a compliant route with procurement regulations.
If you have any ideas for topics you would like the team to cover in 2017 please get in touch. The Procurement Team would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.