DECC and why Government Computer Projects Fail

Back in the summer I bid for the tender to provide the self same Renewables Map facility but paid for by DECC.  If you read the specification within the tender document it all but exactly describes Renewables Map. There are a few more reports to add, but this is a very small proportion of the task. The biggest challenge is getting the data. More than that, DECC used to refer to Renewabales Map as if it was their own, then, in 2011,  changed the name of their resource to renewables map – a bit confusing?  Praise or plagiarism? .

Anyway, having been dismissed out of hand I wrote to my MP, got a reply through him from Ed Davey – a standard “We’re the Government, we always do the right thing” letter.

Then wrote to  Jane Redrup in DECC who replied in depth.  Thanks Jane, but if this is an indication of how DECC select providers, God help us.

I have copied the response below, You can also download here: DECC / Jane Redrup’s response 

But to summarise, this is the gist of the response: “We are not at all interested in what you have done or can show you can do, we want to see a jolly good essay.  All marks towards whether you get the tender bid will be based on grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Extra marks got to people who make claims about what they will do. Being able to show you are already doing exactly what we are asking for will not count in your favour”

Unbelievable!  But if this is an indication of how Government departments select suppliers, then we are truly doomed!

As to the winning bidder.  This is a company called Eunomia.  They are now one of my larger users.  See here:  Eunomia Research and Consulting use of Renewables Map.  Note that this (can I call it plagiarism? not sure) activity started immediately after they won the tender, clearly they had no interest nor experience in this subject until they got the contract. I expect they wrote good essay’s though!

Obviously to get the most of Jane Redrup’s response would need an understanding of the tender document, in particular the division between the delivery of REDP (Renewable Energy Database Project) and RESTATS (Renewable Energy Statistics)  I bid for REPD, not RESTATS Jane jumps between the two in critiquing my bid, also the response is inconsistent and with knowledge of tender / bid and evidence, certainly confused. NB. I did NOT bid for the RESTATS tender, I bid for the REPD tender. However I am being judged based on not proposing to deliver the RESTATS requirements!

Here’s an example from the initial dismissal :

The Sift Panel commented that the bid demonstrated experience of project management, with good evidence of data collection and development. However there was little evidence of how that would be applied to this work area. The bid also failed to demonstrate a good understanding of renewable energy and policy issues and of DECC’s requirement.”

However there was little evidence of how that would be applied to this work area. ”  Urm… Maybe the evidence of what is now accepted as the best collection of renewable energy project data in the UK? Do they have so little knowledge of what goes on beyond their office?

And with the experience of Project Management.  Actually I gave examples of successful projects, such as leading and largely doing a study of the Supreme Court in Pakistan that resulted in a successful bid for £millions from the ADB. etc etc.. so clearly recognised.  I didn’t say experience and training in PRINCE and PRISM. How can these be applied to what is in essence a process rather than change?

Anyway, have a look at the scores further down. Based on what Jane Redrup has said these are based on what I described not on evidence. So, however brilliant I am at developing databases, integrating GIS, automatic downloads of metoffice data, pick and point map entry, rdbms etc etc unless I can write a nice essay describing it, ,,,,  well, words fail me.  No wonder the Government’s IT record is so awful when this is the way tender bids are decided!

Letter text below
Dear Mr Mallett

Renewable Energy Planning Database Procurement Process

Thank you for your email of 28 October 2014, in which you seek further feedback about your tender to ‘Maintain and publish a planning database for renewable energy installations’ (Tender reference 830/06/2014).

I will address each of your points in turn but more generally, I would like to reiterate that DECC takes an evidence-based approach to procurement in the interests of fairness to all bidders. It is the Tenderer’s responsibility to ensure that the information contained within the response to the Invitation to Tender (ITT) meets all the requirements of the ITT on a full and comprehensive basis.

This procurement was for the maintenance and publication of a planning database for renewable energy installations. The ITT set out at Section 12 the scope of the work and the expectations of what the contractor would be required to do, and at Section 13, the requirements and outputs.

In particular paragraph 13.1 set out that the ‘overall aim of the work of the planning database is to ensure that Government can continue to have access to accurate data on the deployment of renewable electricity projects as they pass through the planning system. The emphasis will be on the capture of accurate and timely data on proposed and existing planning applications’.

Section 13 also listed specific objectives and advised that the tender should set out the proposed arrangements for covering these objectives.

To enable the Evaluation Panel to assess the best bid, the ITT set out at Paragraph 26.1 criteria for assessing the tenders, and the weighting to be applied. This included wording such as ‘experience / ability to demonstrate…’.
As part of this assessment, the Evaluation Panel was looking for bidders to demonstrate clearly and convincingly how they met the criteria and therefore the requirements of the ITT.

In submitting your Tender, you referenced a published renewables map as evidence of your ability to meet the requirements of the ITT. However, it was still necessary to support this by explaining in the main body of the bid how and
why it would meet all the requirements of the ITT (such as consistency, quality, accuracy, timeliness) and to provide assurance on how the outputs would be met to the required level. Unfortunately, there was insufficient detail in the bid
for the Evaluation Panel to verify this.

Simply put, you would have scored higher marks had you:

  • Provided supporting evidence within the body of the bid on how your renewables map met the requirements of the ITT; and
  • Addressed areas outwith the scope of the map in sufficient detail to provide evidence or demonstrate an understanding of the requirements.

For example, how the map and your proposed data collection processes were sufficient to meet DECC’s needs and quality standards; your approach to data quality assurance.

As requested, I will now address the individual points raised in your email. For ease of reference I have replicated your email below, with my response added in red below each comment.

Simon Mallet email:  (and response from Jane Redrup highlighted) 
I tendered for the REPD part of the overall RESTATS / REPD project and was dismissed at an early stage. The general statement was:

“However there was little evidence of how that would be applied to this work area. The bid also failed to demonstrate a good understanding of renewable energy and policy issues and of DECC’s requirement.”

Looking at the first sentence “however there was little evidence of how that would be applied to this work area” the specification of what was actually required as an output in every sense described renewables map. A resource that I have developed and axpanded over the years, even so far as to change the original restats target from sub 1MW to anything over 1MW.  The statement is irrational and ignores the evidence presented. Simply the fact that I was (as stated within the bid) and still am already doing what was required as the major output of the tender (and actually doing it better. The additional reporting was just a case of formatting the collected data in a different way.

Although you mention you would work with others, we would have liked detail on how you would do this, how you would guarantee the quality of the work and how you would meet DECC’s requirements.

The tender makes only very high-level, general references to working with developers and local authorities. We are aware of the difficulties of sometimes achieving timely and accurate data collection, so would have expected your response to include detail as to how this would be achieved or how the risk of a lack of engagement from them would be managed.

(NB.  I don’t know what statement Jane is responding to, its not at all related to my statement / question. As to dealing with developers and local authorities? Well, I’ve been accessing that data successfully for at least 6 years, many real projects I detail are not yet included on REPD) 

Going on from there: “The bid also failed to demonstrate a good understanding of renewable energy and policy issues and of DECC’s requirement” Having developed and managed the renewables map for over 6 years to the point where it is a resource used more than the equivalent part of DECC’s equivalent by 2 orders of magnitude, again this is an irrational statement.

As mentioned above, your tender concentrated on the publication of your map. You would have received higher marks had you, for example demonstrated an understanding of how Government policy on renewables has evolved over time, and mentioned the current challenges the REPD is designed to help address. For example, the management of financial incentives schemes and the need to meet targets and manage budgets.

I would also draw your attention to the statements from NAREC and STFC. You have seen these already.

Extracts and second-hand statements from third parties are not relevant unless they demonstrate meeting the requirements.

My contention is that as an individual, even though I was able to present proof of my ability to satisfy every requirement within the tender, my bid was always going to be dismissed.

As explained by Ed Davey in his response to the Rt Hon Sir Hugh Robertson, each proposal was assessed by an evaluation panel and marked in accordance with the published evaluation criteria and weighting, set out in the Invitation to Tender. The three suppliers with the highest scores from the written proposal were then shortlisted and invited for interview, two of which were SMEs.

The process was carried out in a fair and transparent way, overseen by a Senior Procurement manager. Whether the proposal was submitted by an individual, SME or large organisation was immaterial as the assessment depended on the evidence submitted within the tender.

I would also like a response to:

For about 2 years, renewables map was referenced by DECC / RESTATS as the definitive resource for renewable energy projects. Please can you clarify how this fits with the above dismissal of my ability to provide this resource formally. I can only think that you are happy to have it for free, but, for some reason will not entertain a bid to supply what was previously used by you for free I simply cannot understand this, unless I consider less salubrious reasons.

As set out above, the Panel could only consider the evidence submitted. I cannot comment on the previous reference or use of renewables map. However as one of the primary users of the REPD over the past 4 years, I can confirm that the
REPD is a key component of DECC policy making. Other published databases are unlikely to be used for DECC purposes as they are unable to provide the same level of certainty over quality, accuracy and timeliness of data.

(The concern here is that just because REPD is stated as a Govt resource it is by definition accurate and up to date. Having spoken to the previous provider of the data for RESTATS/REPD, they admitted that mine “Renewables Map” was more accurate and more up to date, the fact that the new provider is now data mining Renewables Map rather confirms this, so a comment to Jane, your statement is both arrogant and stupid! )  

I have stated that renewables map gets 60 times more visitors than the equivalent part of the restats/repd web presence. This is based on the data provided within the FAQs of the tender. Can you clarify web page views and unique visitors with a clearly stated time period, that information was omitted from the FAQs and cannot/ could not be considered ‘commercial in confidence;..

The contractor has advised that the data reported related to June 2014 and was intended to give a representation of the traffic levels.

Also, and perhaps as important as all the above. Following Eunomia’s award of the contract they are rapidly becoming the most frequent users of renewables map. If they are so much better that they justify being paid for this data, why are they
constantly data-mining my website. I cannot think of the words to express how contemptible that is.

This is not for DECC to respond.

I would appreciate a clear and honest response – please include my MP (via Stainton James) in your reply. I hope you will give him the respect, in your clear and full response to all of the above, that we both deserve.