Public Procurement Simplification
The Government is determined to remove barriers that small suppliers face in public sector procurement and make it easier for them to do business with Government.
On 26 April 2012 the Government published an update on the public sector’s forward programme of work, a procurement pledge and a strategic capability document on the construction and tunnelling industries. This builds on a package of measures published by the Government in November 2011 to revolutionise how the Government buys from the private sector.
Strengthening UK supply chains: public procurement - tunnelling: a capability analysis (PDF, 207 Kb)
Strengthening UK supply chains: public procurement
The way in which the public sector conducts its procurements and engages with the supply base can have a significant impact on economic growth and firms’ investment decisions. Although public sector demand is only around 15% of total UK demand, in certain sectors it accounts for a large proportion or majority of demand (e.g. defence, health, transport). Furthermore, even in sectors where the public sector is not necessarily the primary customer, it can still have a significant impact on the activities and behaviours of firms.
UK based supply chains are important not only for UK competitiveness but also to maintain the UK’s reputation as an open and attractive place to do business. We recognise that Government may have an important role to play in helping to remove barriers to growth, for example where there are skills shortages, underinvestment in innovation, a lack of competition, or problems with access to finance.
For many sectors, this is about delivering stable macroeconomic conditions and a business environment which supports growth and enterprise. There may also be areas where more targeted action to address market failures could be taken to strengthen the UK supply base.
We have published a document that focuses on the capabilities required in tunnelling, within the wider context of construction and infrastructure. This illustrates some of the actions we are able to take to strengthen the UK supply base in sectors which are influenced by public sector procurement.
The Coalition Programme includes an aspiration that “25% of government contracts should be awarded to small and medium sized businesses”. Government recognises that smaller firms can provide flexible service, innovative solutions and value for money to the public sector, but that they also face greater challenges in the procurement process than larger businesses.
At the SME Strategic Supplier Summit on 11 February 2011 a broad package of reforms were announced which included: the launch of the free, on-line procurement portal “Contracts Finder”; a completely new approach to assessing companies and organisations who want to do business with Government; and measures to help make the system more open, and transparent. A full list of these measures is available in the Cabinet Office announcement Government opens up contracts to small business.
BIS continues to work with the Efficiency and Reform Group, (ERG) in Cabinet Office in taking forward these measures, for instance, in December 2010 it became mandatory for central Government departments to use a core pre-qualification questionnaire for lower value contracts below the EU threshold (typically below £100,000). Progress on some of the measures is outlined below, and work is also in progress to further drive improvement in the competence and professionalism of individual procurers.
On 11 February 2011, Government launched Contracts Finder - a free facility for small and medium-sized businesses to find online public sector procurement and sub-contracting opportunities above £10,000 in one single location. Contracts Finder will also be the place where all central government tender documents and contracts above £10,000 are held providing transparency for businesses to see what Government is buying and how goods and services are being bought.
- Contracts Finder is now the place where all central government tender and contract documents are held.
- It will become the primary location for new public sector contract opportunities in addition to closed contract documents. All the information will be fully searchable and available to the public, free of charge.
- Suppliers and members of the public using the site can choose to receive free email alerts to advise them of new opportunities or search for closed published contract and tender documents.
The previous Government portal Supply2.gov.uk came to the end of its service contract on 31 March 2011. To enable small businesses to freely download, analyse and gain a better understanding of what government buys, BIS has made available all historical contract data (published on the Supply2gov site from 2006 to 2011), on its transparency page. Additionally, snapshots of Supply2Gov website (dating back to 2006 to close of service) have been captured and are available on the National Archives website.
Public procurement training for businesses: winning the contract
To help small businesses build skills and capacity and support SMEs access public procurement opportunities, BIS has designed (with input from across both the public and private sectors) a free on-line public procurement training course ‘Winning the Contract’ available on the Business Link website. The course is a free, nationally available resource, which aims to make the public procurement process more transparent and accessible to small businesses.
Winning the Contract: a free online public procurement course from Business Link