What are framework agreements?
Frameworks are “umbrella agreements” that sets out the terms – particularly relating to price, quality and quantity – under which individual contracts (call-offs) can be awarded throughout the period of the agreement (normally a maximum of 4 years). They are typically used when the buyer(s) identify a need for specific products or services but are unsure of the scope or time-frame.
Continue reading “Framework Agreements: What You Need to Know”
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.
Continue reading “Cabinet Office consultation on public contracts”
Recommendations first outlined in the Glover Report to help small businesses identify contract opportunities are now coming to fruition.
The Glover Report – Accelerating the SME Economic Engine states…
“Tendering opportunities thought especially suitable for SMEs or consortia of SMEs should be flagged by the procurer during the advertising process.”
Although this idea has been around for a while, the OGC have recently published a paper entitled Small supplier big opportunity, Flagging your contracts to SMEs which follows on from the Glover Report’s recommendations and outlines the procedure to be adopted by purchasers in highlighting suitable opportunities for SMEs.
Continue reading “Flying the Flag for Small Businesses”
PQQs (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) are issued by awarding authorities, as part of a restricted procedure, in order to short-list suitable suppliers before inviting them to tender. Suppliers are assessed according to pre-set criteria based around financial position, ability to deliver, quality standards, and the company’s policies on health and safety, sustainability and equal opportunities.
Continue reading “How to score with PQQs”
On Sunday the Remedies Directive (2007/66/EC) was implemented in UK legislation. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) had drafted ‘The Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009’ (SI 2009/2992). While in Scotland the Scottish Procurement Directorate (SPD) had drafted The Public Contracts and Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2009 (SSI 2009/428). Although both sets of regulations are implementing the same European Directive there are some significant differences in the detail, although in this article I’ll only concentrate on the main effects.
Continue reading “Remedies – Public sector buyers beware!”
Francis Maude - Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Manchester yesterday, Francis Maude, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said the party would publish online, every item of government expenditure over £25,000 and all government tender documents for contracts worth over £10,000.
The Shadow Minister said that he thought that this would allow ‘an army of armchair auditors’ to crawl all over the governments accounts and not only help them to spend money better, but it would also help to rebuild trust.
This isn’t the first time that politicians have promised to make government procurement more transparent:
- In 2003 the Better Regulation Task Force published ‘Government Supporter and Customer?’ Recomendation No. 1 was that the government should advertise ‘lower value contracts from across central government and include information on future contract opportunities.’ This set the scene for the Supply2.gov website, which due to a woeful lack of support from the Department of Business failed to reach its true potential and is due to be replaced by a new website implementing the Glover recommendations (see below).
- In 2005 the Office of Government Commerce and the Small Business Service published ‘Smaller supplier…..better value?‘ which pointed out the challenges facing SME’s and how the government could help by publishing their future contracts online.
- Also in 2005 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (when John Prescott was still a force to be reckoned with) published the ‘Small Business Friendly Concordat: Good Practice Guidance’ which yet again urged public sector organisations to use their websites to publish ‘details of forthcoming bidding opportunities.’
- In 2006 the then Scottish Executive published a ‘Review of Public Procurement in Scotland’ authored by John McClelland, which recommended that ‘a single public sector “electronic portal” should be established. Suppliers must be able to access all essential information on opportunities to offer services and bid for contracts for the supply of commodities and services to the whole Public Sector in Scotland.’ This report resulted in the establishment of the rather effective Public Contracts Scotland website in 2008, which is run by the (some say, brilliant) team behind Tenders Direct.
- Most recently in November 2008, the Glover report or ‘Accelerating the SME economic engine: through transparent, simple and strategic procurement,’ as it was more formally known, yet again, you guessed it, recommended that:
- ‘By 2010, contract opportunities above £20,000 across the whole public sector should be advertised electronically with standard indicative contract value ranges, and accessible through a single, free, easy to search online portal.’
So at numerous times over the last six years, various politicians, government departments, quango’s and notable report authors have called for more transparency in the publication of government contracts.
The main barrier to progress has definitely been the lack of a clear lead by central government, either to publish its own contracts, or to establish an infrastructure and clear guidelines or regulations to ensure that other public bodies publish their contracts. The secondary barrier has been an unwillingness by staff in local authorities, NHS trusts, etc., to publish their contracts. This unwilling attitude stems from a variety of reasons such as a fear that they will be inundated with suppliers, that they want to keep contracts for local suppliers, that they ‘know’ who the best suppliers are anyway. Provided the procurement activity is approached professionally these fears are either groundless, well intentioned, but illegal and ineffective, or simply wrong. All of them get in the way of efficient procurement, or as the Right Honorable Member for Horsham put it yesterday we need to ‘spend money better.’
The Department for Business and the Office of Government Commerce have been making some progress towards implementing the recommendations contained in the Glover Report. Unfortunately progress appears to have slowed as the General Election looms closer. At least it seems that the Tories have a similar, if not even greater, enthusiasm to open up public procurement, so that regardless of who wins power next year we should have a new era of open access to government contracts.