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HELD TO ACCOUNT Buying travel with public money brings its own set of challenges


THE NEED TO MARRY THE PRACTICALITIES of doing business with the drive to keep costs down applies equally to the public and private sectors, but the notable difference between the two is framework procurement. A framework is a public sector procure- ment body that buys supplier services – car hire, travel, stationery – on behalf of any public sector entities that want to be part of it. However, this is no easy task. “They struggle with it because a frame- work is generally procuring on behalf of a vast number of organisations and all of them want something slightly different, so you end up with a tender that has been written by committee,” says managing director of Click Travel Jill Palmer. “This places quite a burden on the supplier, who is trying to procure in a way that’s price efficient and gives the best approach


88 BBT JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2016


for everybody, but has to pay heed to these unique requirements.” It also means that travel management companies (TMCs) are answering to two masters: the buyer, who writes the brief; and the organisa- tions who use the framework. “From a supplier’s perspective,” says


Corporate Travel Partners director Robert Daykin, “there is no guarantee of business from the framework because organisa- tions that subscribed to it can use it, but do not have to. In my experience of the public sector, the departments that made arrangements that met their specific needs direct with the supplier were better off from a service, support and best value perspective.” The tender process is also a nightmare. It could be an e-auction, where a price is set and there is a race to the bottom; or a best and final offer, which Palmer likens


to pinning the tail on the donkey while blindfolded: “It is incredibly difficult to oust the incumbent, because they know what is being charged at the moment and have a pretty clear idea where they need to go with prices to win.” There are quality and price weightings, but given that public sector bodies are subject to scrutiny from the National Audit Office, it is difficult for them to justify choosing anything other than the lowest price.


TRAVEL GUIDELINES The business of getting people from A to B is not vastly different from the private sector. Moving MPs around the UK and farther afield, for example, no longer has moat and duck-house implications: their expenditure is governed by the Indepen- dent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which provides guidelines for travel.


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