RIAI Survey Reveals Industry-wide Issues with Procurement

RIAI Survey Reveals Industry-wide Issues with Procurement

When it comes to publicly-funded projects, are the government getting the best value for money? According to a recent survey of RIAI-registered architects, 49% of practices don’t even tender for public works because of issues with the procurement process. A lack of a clearly defined brief at the beginning of public projects was identified as one of the major reasons why many firms won’t put their hat in the ring.

RIAI Survey Background

This month, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) published a report titled ‘Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement’ where they outlined a number of recommendations to improve the public procurement process. The report was commissioned after a shocking 2018 survey revealed that almost half of architectural practices do not even compete for public projects. Those who didn’t, cited poor design briefs; unclear requirements; uncertainty about the extent of the job and timescale; and weak knowledge of design issues by procurement agencies as the main deterrents from applying.

Survey Results

One of the main points stressed by the RIAI was that in the current system, design innovation and the impact quality of outcomes (which can lead to higher whole-life costs) are not properly considered. The procurement process focuses mostly on minimising the cost of design and construction, rather than achieving value for money. In fact, architects are mostly brought into the process at too late a stage, ultimately achieving less-than-optimal outcomes when it comes to capital cost and the cost of long-term performance.


RIAI President, David Browne said: “The Government and public bodies are the largest procurers of architecture and design services in the State. Good design adds value to the quality of the project and to the public realm. The current procurement system needs to be recalibrated to achieve better long-term results and value for money from Government investment.

Significant improvements to the procurement process can be made across the whole construction sector by improving the quality of the brief and embedding construction expertise within public sector bodies. Poor briefs, including limited information on design specifications, add to the overall time and cost to bring new public sector developments to completion, compared to private developments.”

Report Recommendations

The RIAI report made a number of recommendations to improve the process including:

  • To assist public bodies develop functional and clear design briefs, an internal client design advisory team consisting of relevant professionals should be put in place.
  • The process to assess eligibility to tender for work should be streamlined though the use of ‘Procurement Passports’ where architects and construction professionals would provide all relevant information to a centralised agency on an annual basis.
  • For smaller projects, especially those run by inexperienced clients, a similar advisory team should be established to provide technical assistance on design briefs before tenders are sought and to work collaboratively during the life of the contract.
  • A Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Professional Services should be established and written into the contract at the outset.
  • A mechanism should be required to exclude companies with a track record of non-performance on previous contracts from tendering for public contracts in the future.
  • Clear roles and responsibilities and accountability of all members of the project team must be set out in the project brief.

If you want to read more, the full report can be found here: Achieving Quality Through Smart Procurement.

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