O n the one hand, financial constraints imposed through both necessity and central Government policy lead to an unrelenting drive for “value for money” and greater efficiencies. And on the other, the laudable but difficult to obtain ideal of reducing bureaucracy for SMEs and allowing greater access to public sector procurement opportunities throws up almost as many problems as it seeks to solve.
The concept of driving efficiencies through increased competition cannot be faulted. SMEs are the engine of our economy and are just as likely to have the requisite experience as larger organisations, as well as being in a position to offer reduced costs. For SMEs themselves, access to a wider range of opportunities without the administrative and financial burden of completing lengthy and often bewildering PQQs should benefit the individual business. So far so good. But what’s the reality?
Those responsible for procurement still have to demonstrate that they have carried out appropriate due diligence when selecting a service provider or supplier. So in fact the same questions are still likely to be asked of the supplier or service provider. Only now, requests will be arriving in a variety of formats – potentially leading to an increased administrative burden on all parties.
Furthermore, the waters of public sector procurement are potentially as muddied as always. Last year the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) reported that more than 40% of UK businesses don’t know that bid-rigging is illegal. Procurement professionals are under a duty to demonstrate and maintain an appropriate level of scrutiny and transparency. To complicate matters further, there has recently been a high profile example of a prescribed procurement process being effectively ignored and contracts awarded purely on personal preference.
Maintaining appropriate levels of scrutiny and transparency becomes even harder for the procurer when costs are misrepresented as happened in a recently reported case in Wales involving one of the UK’s largest contractors.
So, is there a discernable path to be followed that can help achieve the desired aims of openness, transparency, efficiency and competition for public sector procurement? We believe so and we don’t believe that a price needs be paid to achieve these goals. That’s why a common sense approach is at the heart of the tools TenderSpace offers. Profile Builder is a free and intuitive interpretation of PAS91 which allows suppliers and contractors to showcase their work via just one form – giving buyers all the information they need to make informed decisions. While Project Manager – another free tool in the TenderSpace box – allows specifiers and advisors to manage the procurement process from beginning to end in a secure and transparent way, with appropriate levels of scrutiny and management.
Transparent, effective procurement may not become the industry standard overnight, but the more we all support intuitive and honest processes, the quicker the change may come.