The Crown Commercial Service has published a note alerting us to the fact that its "Mystery Shopper" service has undergone a re-launch and is now known as the Public Procurement Review Service.
The Mystery Shopper service was launched in 2011 as a tool for the encouragement of good practice and moved on to a statutory footing once the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 came into force and provided statutory authority for the work of the service. The recent re-name and re-launch was seen as necessary in order to reflect the true scope of its remit and authority.
The note reminds us that, while the Review Service can encourage good practice and “name and shame” recalcitrant or uncooperative contracting authorities, it nonetheless does not have the power to order a contracting authority to do (or stop doing) something. In the UK (unlike in other jurisdictions, many of which have public procurement tribunals) only the High Court has that authority, and the cost of issuing a claim there can often prove prohibitive for suppliers.
However, the service is able to make recommendations to contracting authorities if it considers there to have been a breach of the procurement regulations or of good practice guidance. If you are a supplier and you think you have been unfairly treated, it is always worth contacting the service to see what help might be available, especially as it might solve the problem at an early stage and avoid the need for more formal proceedings.