Category: Politics of Procurement

A Slap on The Wrist for Authorities

Are Procurement Standards Slipping or Are the Powers That be getting Stricter?

I feel that every tweet, RSS and blog is talking about another authority getting pulled up and challenged on one of their “sweep-it-under-the-rug” tenders.

The European Commission has requested Greece to ensure full compliance with EU rules on public procurement – the purchase of goods and services by public authorities – as regards school bus services and the supply of underground electricity cables….. Read the rest of the post

New Model for Government Procurement

The government faces the challenge of making progress on its new procurement operational model while working with departments’ existing contracts, industry experts said.

At the end of 2010, John Collington of the Efficiency Reform Group (ERG), announced that his team aimed to transform the way government buys commonly used goods and services through category management, standard specification and aggregation of spend, to save 25% over 4years.

The 9 categories to begin this central procurement model are:

Energy, office supplies and professional services as the first three categories to be undertaken by March 2011.

Travel, fleet and telecoms will be addressed by June 2011

IT commodities, print management and advertising and media will be tackled by September 2011.

With March 2011 fast approaching, it is the wise supplier who keeps abreast of developments in this area

A spokesman for Price Waterhouse Coopers said, “Some contracts could be terminated, others will have to run their course,” he said. “The costs of ending contracts could be more inefficient than keeping them alive. There could be many different deals kept running when less have been identified as needed. It will take longer than nine months to get all nine areas tackled.”

The Cabinet Office declined to comment on how it would end multiple contracts with existing suppliers in individual Whitehall departments in order to enable the introduction of a centralised model.

Get Ready Suppliers, The PM has Opened the NHS Floodgate!

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

David Cameron’s article in the Telegraph on Sunday left a bitter taste in the air for many readers. The PM wants “the decisive end of the old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given model of public services” In turn, opening up ALL services to tender, starting with the NHS as a model. Polly Toynbee wrote in the Guardian on Monday

“…the NHS open to contract by “any willing provider”. Any company can claim the right to provide any part of the NHS – even if the local GP consortium is very happy with the NHS surgeons providing operations.”

She highlights the downside of these open to tender services being “traded as financial instruments, sliced and diced according to risk and sold on.” The 1332 comments to follow the article are a mob of extremely irate voters. The general feel of the readers is distrust for the current PM. One commenter noted, “None of this has been voted for – it is in effect a coup”, another said “the death of Public Services” and one clever suggestion was to “sell the Crown Jewels” to put money back into services! As a whole no one was overly impressed with the news.

As a tax payer, mother and frequent user of the NHS I can’t say I am overly impressed. However, the long time employee of Tenders Direct and the supplier focused side of me, is actually secretly excited for all of our customers out there. The long awaited contracts will be coming in hard and fast, so get ready suppliers; the floodgate has opened.

Is scrapping PQQ’s really a good idea?

The Cabinet Office under Francis Maude, has announced that it intends to eliminate PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) for all central government procurements under £100,000.

While I hate filling these things in and find that they are frequently lazily or incompetently written and just as often poorly evaluated, they do fulfil a useful purpose. That is, they avoid the need for suppliers who stand little chance of winning the contract, to complete the full tender document, as well as the need for the buyer to evaluate the full tender from a multitude of suppliers.

I fear that the main result from scrapping the PQQ is that we (the suppliers) end up having to spend many days or weeks completing a full tender, instead of a day or so completing a PQQ, which will then be even more incompetently evaluated by the buyer, as they have a much greater volume to assess.

Surely what is required is a reform of the PQQ process and training to ensure that procurement staff understand what they are doing, rather than engaging in a box ticking exercise? We seem to be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Cabinet Office consultation on public contracts

Cabinet Office sign

In December 2010 the Cabinet Office invited feedback on the effectiveness of the public procurement rules. The purpose of that exercise was to inform the UK’s involvement in the ongoing review of the rules by the European Commission.

The Commission’s review is still underway, and it has now released a formal public consultation paper to which the Cabinet Office is preparing a UK response. Since the Commission’s recent consultation paper is substantially more detailed than the information previously provided by the Cabinet Office, they have extended the deadline for comments until 25th February.

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Modernisation of the European Public Procurement Market

European map with EU stars

Public procurement accounts for roughly 17% of the European Union’s GDP. In times of tight budgets and economic difficulties in many Member States, public procurement policy must ensure the most efficient use of public funds, with a view to supporting growth and job creation. This would require flexible and user-friendly tools that make transparentEuropean map with EU stars and competitive contract awards as easy as possible for European public authorities and their suppliers. With these objectives in mind, the European Commission has  launched a consultation which will focus on the modernisation of the rules, tools and methods for public procurement. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011.

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Sir Philip Green’s Efficiency Review ‘Stating the bleeding obvious’?

Sir Philip Green

This week saw the publication of Sir Philip Green’s ‘Efficiency Review.’ My favourite response, apparently made by a Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman was ‘Most of it, to use Greenspeak, is a statement of the bleeding obvious.’

As Nick Timmins commented in the Financial Times this week:

‘We have been here before. They all found the same. And it must be said, much of their analysis, and some of their prescriptions, were a good deal more profound than Sir Philip’s somewhat glib 33-page PowerPoint-style presentation. Same analysis. Great headlines. Not a lot of detail on how to tackle it all.

The FT hits the nail on the head, we don’t need some non-dom, tax-exile, retail tycoon to identify the problems, the problems are comparatively obvious. Indeed the way to achieve improvements in the way things are currently done that would save billions are also fairly obvious. The hard part is implementing the improvements, in making sure that any initiatives are communicated all the way down to the frontline staff actually doing the purchasing and then monitoring their behaviour to make sure they are following the new policies.

Sir Philip Green


Public contracts after the General Election

UK Party Leaders

Despite the three election debates, none of us are any the wiser precisely how the next Government will cut expenditure in order to pay off the financial deficit. We know that change is (hopefully) coming that will reduce the size of ‘Big Government’ and while change often brings threats, it also brings opportunities.

UK Party Leaders

UK Party Leaders

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Gordon’s EU Compact for Jobs & Growth

Gordon Brown & Herman van Rompuy

In yet another sign of the growing political significance of public procurement the UK Government today published a compact designed to reinvigorate EU economies and build “strong, sustainable and balanced” growth. Gordon Brown met EU President Herman van Rompuy at Downing Street this morning to discuss the economic strategy, as well as climate change, security and the situation in Haiti.  

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Food Procurement – buy local or buy cheap?

Nick Herbert MP

MP’s have been urging local authorities and other public sector bodies to support local farmers and source their food within the UK. I can only assume this is for contracts under the EU procurement thresholds, otherwise how can public sector bodies award £2 billion worth of food contracts just within the UK? When I initially started this article I agreed, why shouldn’t we get to eat nutritious, carbon friendly, local food? Why shouldn’t the UK get to support their local farmers? It is public money, right? It is not quite that simple, local food may not always be the cheaper or most environmentally friendly option. DEFRA has told us a million times, it is more sustainable to grow and import a tomato from Spain than it is to grow one here in the UK.
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