Public bodies across the EU should be obliged to publish “consistent and comparable” data on their procurement expenditure so that the outcomes from that expenditure can be better evaluated, the Scottish Government has said.
A report produced to aid the reform of Scottish Government procurement rules found failings over the amount and quality of information made available about public procurements across Scotland, the UK and EU.
“Across the EU, evidence suggests that there is limited information, monitoring and evaluation data in procurement, resulting in a lack of evidence of the outcomes achieved from public sector contracts spend across all EU member states,” the Scottish Government’s Public Procurement Reform review said. “Undertaking process (formative) and outcome (summative) evaluations and cost benefit analyses of public sector contracts could help EU member states understand and identify progress within the reform agenda and its themes, to try and ensure value for money. The question is whether this should be an integral part of contracts,” the report said.
The report also identified some problems that SMEs face when bidding for public sector contracts. By dividing large contracts into lots, advocating sub-contracting and making greater use of e-procurement tools, some of the barriers that SMEs face to winning that work could potentially be reduced, it said.
Problems with bribery and corruption in public contracts were also identified. In addition, other “preventative approaches” could include increasing the transparency and publication of contract awards, improving data and information sharing practices between the police and tendering authorities, and make public bodies more accountable for demonstrating what “action they have taken to reduce the risk of crime in public procurement”.
This evidence on lack of data would indeed suggest the need to mandate consistent and comparable data gathering at EU member state national and sub-national levels, whether this will happen remains to be seen.