I assume the Deputy’s question relates to building projects under my Department’s Capital Programme.
The relevant school authority, as distinct from my Department, is the client and awarding authority for the vast bulk of projects delivered under the school building programme.
However, the procurement approach for the delivery of all school building projects is set out in guidance and procedures published by my Department’s Planning and Building Unit.
In general, for Public Works contracts there are two methods of tendering (the Restricted procedure and the Open procedure).
In the case of tenders for the appointment of main building contractors for less complex school building projects of a small to medium scale, the Open procedure can be used and all contractors are entitled to submit a tender but must meet the minimum standards as set out in the invitation to tender (thus facilitating the inclusion of small to medium enterprises and those with no experience in educational projects). These contracts are generally awarded on the basis of lowest tender.
For larger or more complex school building projects, where it is considered that pre-qualification of contractors is warranted, the Restricted procedure is normally used. In the Restricted procedure, there is an intermediary qualification stage during which the numbers of applicants is reduced (or restricted) to a specified amount (normally 8 - 10). The pre-qualification process uses a combination of pass/fail criteria and qualitative criteria to establish the tender short-list. All criteria have minimum standards which must be met. These contracts are then generally awarded on the basis of the lowest tender.
Tenders for projects being delivered under my Department’s “Design & Build” programme are evaluated using the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) approach. This means that the criteria for the award of the contract include technical merit as well as price. In the case of the Department’s current Design and Build programme, Technical Merit carries a 60% weighting and Price carries a 40% weighting. Over 150 projects have been delivered under the Department’s Design and Build programme since it was commenced in 2008.
The evaluation of tenders for projects being delivered under Public Private Partnerships (PPP) arrangements has also used the MEAT approach. The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) is responsible for the procurement of PPP projects in the education sector.