Millstream to exhibit at national NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool

Reform and financial challenges on the agenda

Leading e-procurement services provider Millstream is to exhibit at the NHS Confederation annual conference next week, when NHS reform and its financial challenges will be on the agenda.

The NHS Confederation is the membership body for all organisations that commission and provide NHS services and its annual conference and exhibition is being held at the ACC Liverpool from June 5-7.


Millstream runs the mytenders and Tenders Direct websites, which allow public sector organisations to publish tenders and private sector companies to bid for new business, as well as national procurement portals for Scotland, Wales and Norway.

Like local authorities, transport operators and other public bodies, NHS trusts are bound by strict rules on procurement, which affect every purchasing decision made in the public sector.

A growing number of UK public authorities now handle tendering electronically in order to comply with the latest European Union legislation – and save both money and time – and the EU is proposing to make electronic tendering compulsory in the next few years. Continue reading “Millstream to exhibit at national NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool”

Plans to abolish PQQs “well intentioned but badly flawed”

In his second report on small firms, ‘Growing Your Business’, Lord Young, the PM’s adviser on enterprise, recommends the removal of pre-qualification questionnaires across the public sector for all contracts below the EU threshold of £173,934.Lord Young

According to the report, Lord Young believes that the “abolition of PQQs together with the replacement of completion bonds by an insurance scheme would transform the opportunities for small firms and result in a stronger SME sector and at the same time save the taxpayer considerable expenditure”. In this he is building on the initiative of Francis Maude, who scrapped PQQs for central government early in 2011.

Although a well intentioned initiative to enable access to public contracts for SMEs, this is a badly flawed policy that will have exactly the opposite effect. It sounds beneficial to remove bureaucracy from the tender process, but what is actually being removed here is the ‘pre’ element. The qualification questionnaire would still remain, but instead it would be bundled with the full tender response.

This dramatically increases the workload for any company wishing to bid as a full proposal is now required, together with the qualification information. This may be acceptable to a larger company that is confident of winning a high proportion of its bids, but disastrous for any SME’s making a more speculative approach.

It’s undoubtedly true that many PQQs have gold-plated requirements and even more frustratingly each organisation require answers to essentially the same questions in a different format. What is actually required is a reform of the qualification process that efficiently assesses the capability of a supplier. This should be standardised across the public sector so that it only has to be completed once a year.

Millstream to provide public sector procurement portal for Wales

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Leading electronic tendering provider Millstream has been awarded a contract to run Wales’ national e-procurement database, which handles tenders worth around £4.3billion annually.

The Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru) has appointed Millstream to design and run a new-look portal for all public sector tenders, ranging from construction and transport to IT and healthcare.

A number of European governments and public authorities now handle procurement electronically in order to save money and time and to comply with the latest EU legislation.

As the only company providing national public procurement websites for several European member states, Millstream has operated the national procurement portal for Norway for the past seven years and the Public Contracts Scotland portal for the past five years, on behalf of the Scottish Government. Millstream also provided the Irish Government’s eTenders website from 2003 until 2012.

The new look portal will be released in June.

Managing director Tim Williams said: “We are delighted to be able to bring the experience we have gained in Ireland, Norway and Scotland to deliver an effective and fully road-tested service for Wales. The Welsh Government has a very innovative and practically focused approach to procurement and we look forward to contributing to its further success.

“This is a key contract for us, which comes on the back of extensions to our existing contracts with Public Contracts Scotland and the Doffin portal in Norway and underlines our ability to deliver a simple to use system that is reliable and effective.

“The national portals have helped to standardise tendering processes into one online system for both purchasers in the public sector and private sector suppliers, which opens up opportunities for companies while saving both time and public money.”

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

EU legislation means that contracting authorities must adhere to transparent, non-discriminatory and proportional principles when purchasing goods and services. They must also advertise all contracts above a certain value in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Millstream’s portals simplify the creation and management of the tender documentation required by EU and UK regulations.

The company has managed Public Contracts Scotland since 2006 and has provided the Doffin portal for the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) since 2005.

As well as operating procurement portals for national governments, Millstream runs the Tenders Direct website, which provides private companies with comprehensive information on new business opportunities from the public sector, such as the government, local authorities, emergency services, NHS trusts and the armed forces.

It also runs myTenders, a tender publication and management service used by more than 700 public organisations in the UK to submit fully compliant contract notices to the OJEU and Contracts Finder, as well as publicising them on the organisation’s own website.

Millstream offers key to SME success in securing public sector tenders

For many organisations, but particularly SMEs, public sector tendering opportunities are an important way of securing new business, with hundreds of local contracts in every industry published every week.

The key to winning public sector tenders lies in knowing where to find the best information, choosing the appropriate contract size and building good relationships, according to Aberdeen-based electronic tendering provider Millstream.

“A number of European governments and public authorities now handle procurement electronically in order to save money and time and to comply with the latest EU legislation so there are literally thousands of opportunities out there,” said managing director Tim Williams.

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Continue reading “Millstream offers key to SME success in securing public sector tenders”

More Scottish companies winning public contracts

Nicola Sturgeon

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today that more small businesses than ever before are securing public contracts through Public Contracts Scotland (PCS), the national advertising portal, operated by Millstream, the parent company of Tenders Direct.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon

PCS figures show that 80 per cent of 13,308 suppliers awarded contracts through the online portal in 2012 were based in Scotland.

The statistics also demonstrate that 68 per cent of contracts were awarded to Scottish based small or medium sized companies (SMEs), a rise of 12 per cent since 2010. Continue reading “More Scottish companies winning public contracts”

Millstream to lead seminar on how to win public sector contracts

The art and science of bidding to win public contracts for goods and services will be explored at an Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce seminar this week.

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Bidding for public contracts is a massive business opportunity, worth over £225 billion each year in the UK and £9 billion in Scotland alone.

Successive governments continue to encourage small and medium sized companies to participate in the market and public contracts continue to represent reliable and consistent business. However, the procurement process can appear arduous and off-putting, deterring many businesses from pursuing the available opportunities. Continue reading “Millstream to lead seminar on how to win public sector contracts”

New European Procurement Rules

The final revisions to the EU procurement directives are due next month. The main changes, so far, are as follows:

1. Greater involvement of small companies (SME’s)

Selection criteria must be “appropriate” and “related and strictly proportionate” to the subject matter of the contract. If they are used minimum turnover requirement must be no more than three times the contract value and insurance requirements must also be proportionate.

 Purchasers will be required to divide tenders into lots wherever possible or provide an explanation of why they haven’t.

2. Financial Thresholds

Purchasers claimed that the rules made tendering more expensive and time consuming and would have liked the thresholds increased to remove the requirement for smaller contracts. In reality the market is more open through increased visibility of opportunities. The lengthy tender process is frequently due to poor organisation.

3. Changes to contracts

Changes to the terms of a contract have always been allowed where they are not material. Materiality is now defined as changes affecting less than 5% of the value.

4. E-procurement

As it’s our core business, I’m delighted to see the moves towards e-procurement. Contract notices must be submitted online and tender documents must be available for download when the notice is published.

5. In-house suppliers

A purchaser using its own resources to fulfil a need, has always been allowed. The test for in-house provision is set out in three parts:

    • Control must be as if the contractor were an internal department;
    • 80% or more of the contractor’s turnover is for the authority; and
    • There is no private ownership.

6. Part A and B Contracts

I’m pleased to say that the artificial distinction between Part A & B categories of services will be removed. Part B services which previously haven’t subject to most of the rules, cover requirements such as accountancy, legal services, health and social services. There are of course national restrictions related to qualifications, etc., but if for example a UK company can satisfy French rules, why shouldn’t it bid for a contract in France on the same terms as a French supplier?

Key highlights of the Chancellor’s March 2013 Budget Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today made his statement on the UK Budget 2013, saying it was a “Budget for people aspiring to work hard and get on”.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast growth for 2013 of 0.6%, a downgrade from 1.2% in December, but predicts the UK will avoid recession this year.

For 2014 predicted growth is 1.8%, increasing to 2.8% by 2017. Borrowing for this year has increased from the previous forecast of £108bn to £114bn but is expected to fall in subsequent years, with borrowing as a share of GDP excepted to fall from 7.4% in 2013-14 to 5% in 2015-16.

The Chancellor announced help for small firms, saying: “We’ll increase by fivefold the value of government procurement budgets spent through the Small Business Research Initiative.”

Other key announcements included: Continue reading “Key highlights of the Chancellor’s March 2013 Budget Statement”

Be in it to win it, Millstream advises companies looking for public sector work

For many organisations, particularly SMEs, public sector tendering opportunities are an important way of securing new business, with hundreds of local contracts published every week in every sector from cleaning and office supplies to security and major construction projects.

Nearly all local authorities, NHS trusts and government departments now handle procurement electronically to save money and time and ensure compliance with the latest contracts regulations.

It is therefore vital for businesses to ensure they have their finger on the pulse and do not miss out on any potential opportunities in their own local area, throughout the UK or mainland Europe, says Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering specialist Millstream, which runs the Tenders Direct and myTenders websites.

“The days of the printed version of the Official Journal of European Union are long gone and there is no effective way to keep track of all the opportunities without using an online system, particularly in today’s fast-paced world of business.

“Procurement processes will all be conducted entirely online in the near future and the Government’s target is for procurement to be completely electronic by 2016, so it’s vital that companies make sure they don’t miss anything. Continue reading “Be in it to win it, Millstream advises companies looking for public sector work”

Tax avoiders excluded from government contracts

Comedian - Jimmy Carr

New rules that will allow government departments to ban companies and individuals which take part in failed tax avoidance schemes from being awarded Government contracts have been unveiled by Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude today, Thursday 14th February.

Many large companies make massive profits from their participation in government contracts and I suspect that few tears will be spilt by taxpayers if any company is excluded from future contracts because it hasn’t being paying the ‘correct’ amount of tax on those profits. Whenever the government intervenes there are always concerns about yet more bureaucracy (especially for SMEs), the scope for subjective decision making beyond existing tax law, but it is also interesting to see how this fits as part of the wider ‘mood music’ from government and their relationship with larger companies.

The rules, which are proposed to come into effect on 1 April 2013, are outlined in draft guidance published for consultation by the Government. They will require potential suppliers to notify contracting departments of their recent tax compliance history, and specifically to tell the department if any tax return has recently been found to be incorrect as a result of:

  • HMRC successfully challenging it, including under the new General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR); or
  • a failed avoidance scheme which the supplier was involved in and which was, or should have been, notified under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Scheme (DOTAS) rules.

Suppliers will also be required to disclose if they have been convicted for tax related offences or have been subject to a penalty for civil fraud or evasion. Continue reading “Tax avoiders excluded from government contracts”

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