Inappropriate use of Negotiated and Competitive Dialogue Procedures

Some public authorities use the negotiated or competitive dialogue procedures for awarding contracts, when in fact the regulations are actually quite strict on which procedure they should choose and authorities should be using the Open or Restricted procedure in most circumstances.

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Procurement Fraud in English Councils

Cover of audit commission report

The Audit Commission has today published the results of its annual survey of fraud against English councils and related bodies (Protecting the Public Purse 2011). The 2010/11 report shows that:Front cover of Audit Commission Report

  • fraud directed against public sector organisations costs taxpayers £21.2 billion/year
  • fraud against councils costs more than £2 billion/year
  • councils detected more than £185 million worth of fraud (<10% of the total), involving 121,000 cases
  • the total value detected increased by 37 per cent compared against 2009/10, with the number of cases detected also rising

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New research: UK deficit can be slashed without cuts to public services

A third of the UK’s structural deficit (£38bn) could be eliminated by reforming how the public sector buys its goods and

Henley Business School

Henley Business School

services, according to a major new report by Henley Business School at the University of Reading and specialist consulting group Future Purchasing. A complimentary copy of the report is downloadable from www.deficit-reduction.com. Continue reading “New research: UK deficit can be slashed without cuts to public services”

Corruption claims against Edinburgh City Council

BBC Scotland is broadcasting a documentary tonight (20th September) titled ‘Scotland’s Property Scandal’  on BBC1 Scotland (Sky Channel 971) after the news at 22:35. It will also be available on the BBC iPlayer for those of you who don’t have access to BBC Scotland.

The programme investigates the evidence of possible fraud, wrong-doing and incompetence in the Property Conservation Department at Edinburgh City Council. This department is responsible for overseeing the statutory notice system, that seems unique to Edinburgh, where private buildings with multiple owners (e.g. tenements or blocks of flats), can be issued with a notice by the Council stating that the building is going to be repaired and that the cost will be passed to the owners. These repairs are commonly to roofs, or external masonry not only to make sure that they are wind and water tight, but to make sure that there is no danger to passing pedestrians from falling slates or blocks of stone.

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Remedies Directive Loophole – Courts Lift Suspensions for Contract

A colleague of mine recently sent me an article about authorities who have been permitted to proceed with contracts after being challenged by a supplier.  Now, if you remember one of my more recent posts, A Slap on The Wrist for Authorities I discussed (in short) how more authorities are being pulled up for their actions when awarding contracts  unfairly and what you could do as a supplier, I believe my exact words were, “just by making a formal complaint you can put a hiatus on the contract award”. Imagine my surprise when I read the article about three cases where the court lifted the suspension and allowed the contract to continue. Apparently the new Remedies Directive has a tiny little loophole, the same law that allows suppliers to put the brakes on a contract award allows authorities to continue the contract until something more concrete is settled in court. Now this won’t be the case for every authority, they must have to merit the circumstances, but it might put some suppliers off the idea of challenging authorities in court. The courts have suggested awarding damages may be the best way to solve the issue when dealing with brazen suppliers willing to challenge the system. The first case was for cleaning services in a college, the college fought that they needed the cleaning services to continue classes, therefore the college was permitted to carry on with the chosen supplier until an agreement was reached in court (i.e. damages). The second case was for an NHS trust which obviously needed to continue business as usual as they are dealing with people’s health, so again the NHS trust were permitted to use the chosen supplier. The third case was regarding landmine clearance in Cambodia…… need I say more?

So what does this mean for suppliers? Will any challenged authority be quoting these cases in court? If the courts feel that damages will be the best path to take when these cases arise, is this really good value for public money? I feel this loophole goes against the power the authorities were kindly given. It goes back to the same old idealism, be transparent and do it right in the first place. If any of our readers are running into trouble with Authorities, let us hear your story!

Standardised PQQ’s – So what is the standard anyway?

I agree with standardised PQQ’s about as much as I agree with world peace; great in principal, but is it a reality? Okay, so maybe it is a touch dramatic to compare PQQ’s to world peace, but standardising PQQ’s will be a colossal mission- can it be done? I asked the question on Twitter a few weeks back, “What annoys you most about PQQ’s” and we got the same answer – Repetition. So can it be done? Here a look at some of the (my) pros and cons.
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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.

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