Contracts Roundup

What’s new and noteworthy over the last couple of weeks in the exciting world of public procurement?

Simply the best

There’s some pleasing news for the UK civil service in a new report from Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. The International Civil Service Effectiveness Index ranks countries based on a variety of functions such as policymaking, financial management and transparency.

Out of the 38 countries included in the rankings the UK has taken the top spot overall, with New Zealand, Canada, Finland, and Australia completing the top 5. The UK came out on top in the policymaking as well as financial and HR management categories and third in terms of procurement effectiveness after New Zealand and Denmark.

Procurement as a standalone indicator was introduced in this year’s survey and New Zealand scored highest in the category primarily due to e-procurement effectiveness and SME access to public contracts. One area where the UK didn’t do so well was in the digital services category, ranking in the bottom third. Read more from Civil Service World.

Rough seas

Some bad news for the public purse – and ammunition for critics of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – as the infamous Brexit ferry saga took another unfortunate twist.

Following the cancellation of the contract signed with Seaborne Freight, the remaining contracts with Brittany Ferries and DFDS have been terminated at an expected cost of over £50 million now that the threat of a no-deal Brexit has receded.

This comes after the government paid out £33 million to Eurotunnel following a challenge to the procurement process. Now shipping giant P&O is taking legal action over this payment, arguing that it constitutes illegal state aid and gives their competitor an unfair advantage.

Mr Grayling insisted that these contracts were a necessary insurance policy and highlighted that they were only a small fraction of overall no-deal Brexit preparations. Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald was a little less relaxed about it, saying “Chris Grayling and the ferry contracts will for evermore be a case study in Ministerial incompetence”.

Chinese whispers

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has been fired by Theresa May for allegedly being the source of a leak about the involvement of the Chinese telecoms provider Huawei in the development of the UK’s 5G mobile network. Following a showdown in the Prime Minister’s office Mr Williamson protested his innocence and likened his sacking to a “kangaroo court”.

The concerns over Huawei relate to its’s ties with the Chinese government and the possibility that new network infrastructure could be exploited for the purposes of espionage or cyberwarfare.

Many in the defence and intelligence community have warned of the risks and the potential damage to the intelligence-sharing agreement between the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand known as the “Five Eyes”.

The development of 5G is an international effort driven by a mix of direct public funding, private investment, and Public Private Partnerships. The level of opportunity for ICT businesses over the next few years will be huge, whether it be formal contract work or access to targeted funding opportunities such as this current competition.

Top tenders

The months following the turn of the financial year are always the busiest for public sector purchasing as new budgets come into play and annual plans are implemented. Some notable recent notices:

Framework Agreement from NHS Shared Business Services worth £100 million for design services, furniture and appliances

Dynamic Purchasing System from Bolton Council worth over £1million for a variety of event supplies and services

Prior Information Notice from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime worth £1.7 million for services to support young victims of violent crime in London’s A&Es.

 Thoughts or questions? Leave a comment!

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