Selecting Architectural and Engineering Consultants: Municipal Practices in Sweden
Doctoral thesis, 2014
New political ambitions, not least in the area of sustainability, have gradually generated a need for new and developed procurement practices. Internationally as well as in Sweden, traditional price-focused procurement strategies are often used in construction-related procurement although new political goals call for more flexible approaches. Swedish studies have shown that this applies also to architectural and engineering services and especially in procurement for small contracts on a local government level. The purpose of this thesis is, therefore, to investigate municipal procurement practices in Sweden for these services. The research involved three specific objectives: To investigate patterns in how architectural and engineering consultants are selected in Swedish municipalities, especially which criteria and information sources that are used; to identify important influences on municipal practices for selecting consultants; and to suggest areas of development for practice. The thesis is based on three empirical studies. In the first study, interviews were conducted with representatives of five large public clients and with senior consultants and managers from four architectural and engineering consultancies in the private sector. In the second study, empirical data were collected through an explorative questionnaire survey distributed to 50 per cent of all Swedish municipalities, with a response rate of 72 per cent. The third study was a multiple case study, based on interviews with staff responsible for procurement of architectural and engineering services in five Swedish municipalities. Findings show that municipalities frequently use multiple criteria to award contracts for architectural and engineering services, but also that there is a high focus on price, or on non-price criteria that are easy to assess in tender evaluations. Further, ‘personal’ information sources are frequently used, while more advanced information sources, such as interviews and tender presentations, are generally avoided. Findings indicate that various circumstances in the decision-making context of the officials, including working conditions and tensions between procurement staff and technical staff, have an important impact on procurement practices. These contextual factors, primarily related to a scarcity of resources, ambiguous work guidelines, and differences in knowledge and professional culture of the two groups of staff, all contribute to creating a simplified procurement practice that poorly rewards supplier competencies that are important for the fulfilment of political ambitions for the built environment. It is argued that there is a need for selection procedures that are more adapted to the complexity of construction design services and also to policy goals for procurement in the built environment. This implies more specifically a need to incorporate a wider range of non-price criteria, with less focus on price, and to apply more advanced information sources in the award of contracts. Needs of improvements specifically directed at policy makers and managers include clearer procurement guidelines, the allocation of more resources to technical and procurement functions, and interventions to overcome barriers in collaboration between technical staff and procurement staff. This, in turn, implies more involvement and support from top management, and that procurement is seen as a strategic function.
architectural and engineering services