069. Re-imagine the tendering process for building schools

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but I watched an episode of Reeling in the Years where it accounted one of the biggest years of the Celtic Tiger. In one segment, the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, was shaking hands with some builder. A decade later, the same man (not Bertie) was the contractor in charge of building the school I work in.

The company, which is now liquidated built a large number of schools across the country and had a well-known reputation. Despite this, they kept getting awarded contracts because when the tendering process was done, they always came in the cheapest. Their legacy, I’m sure, will be on a later episode of Reeling in the Years.

One of the problems with the tendering process is that very few companies have any real chance of getting the contract. My suggestion is that the tender would not simply be done on cost but also on locality and reputation. Building a school can give the local community a short-term boost to employment. One also has the advantage that local involvement gives better accountability and a sense of local pride. Reputation must also be a factor. Any school that has any work done should be surveyed after 2-3 years to see if they would recommend the company that built their school.

Another aspect that needs to be factored in is how innovative the school would be. It needs to factor in architecture and environmental criteria.

While it’s a lot more complicated than simply giving the job to the lowest price, a better quality school can be built.

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