Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

3 March 2016

man juggling

Those responsible for public sector procurement could claim with some justification that they are in an invidious position. Faced with a series of directives and ideals that are at best sometimes at variance with each other and other times in direct contradiction, they are forced to toe a very difficult line.

On the one hand, financial constraints imposed through both necessity and central government lead to an inexorable drive for “value for money” and greater efficiencies. And on the other, the laudable but difficult to obtain ideal of reducing bureaucracy for SME’s and allowing greater access to public sector procurement opportunities, throws up almost as many problems as it seeks to solve.

The theory of being able to drive efficiencies through increased competition cannot be faulted. SME’s are the engine of our economy and are just as likely to have the requisite skills to satisfy the buyers wants as larger organisations and indeed should be able to offer reduced costs as they are not saddled with the attendant administrative costs of larger organisations. And for the SME’s, access to an increased range of opportunities without the administrative and financial burden of completing lengthy and often bewildering PQQ’s should benefit the individual business. So far so good. But what is the reality?

For those responsible for procurement, they still have to demonstrate that they have carried out appropriate due diligence when selecting a service provider or a supplier. So the reality is likely to be that the same questions are asked of the service provider or supplier and the same information requested as previously. Now, however, it will be arriving on desks and inboxes in a variety of formats potentially leading to an increased administrative burden on all parties.

Furthermore, the waters of public sector procurement remain potentially as muddied as always. Last year the “Competition and Markets Authority” reported that more than 40% of UK businesses don’t know that bid-rigging is illegal. So those responsible for procurement are under a duty to demonstrate and maintain an appropriate level of scrutiny and transparency. To complicate matters further, there is the recent high profile example of a prescribed procurement process being effectively ignored and contracts awarded purely on personal preference.

And maintaining appropriate levels of scrutiny and transparency becomes that much harder for the procurer when costs are misrepresented as happened in the recently reported case in Wales involving one of the largest contractors in the country.

So, is there a discernable path to be followed that can help achieve the desired aims of openness, transparency, efficiency and competition? Copronet believes so and we don’t believe that a price need be paid to achieve these goals. Two of our free tools could significantly aid all involved in a common sense fashion:

“Profile Builder” is a free and intuitive interpretation of PAS 91 allowing suppliers and contractors to showcase themselves with just one form that provides all of the information to help the buyer make an informed decision.

“Project Hub” is again a free tool that allows the specifier and advisors to manage the procurement process form beginning to end in a secure and transparent way, allowing for appropriate levels of scrutiny and management.

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