Government adds polish to public procurement process with new Pledge

The Cabinet Office and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills have announced that they will take the lead in embedding the Government's new Procurement Pledge across Central Government. The Procurement Pledge is intended to formalise the Government's commitment to take a more strategic approach in the way that it does business with the aims of ensuring that the Government gets best value for money and helping the market to prepare better and cater for future demand by ensuring that the right capabilities are in place.

As part of the Procurement Pledge Central Government and public sector signatories will: 

  1. Give potential providers greater certainty over their future demand;
  2. Work with potential providers to identify and address strategic capabilities in supply chains to ensure providers are prepared to meet this future demand;
  3. Operate an open door policy for business so that a more strategic relationship with current and future providers can be developed;
  4. Give all types of potential providers including small providers simpler more streamlined procurement processes; and
  5. Back UK businesses when bidding for contracts overseas.

The Government will now publish pipelines of planned future procurements together with an indication of the likelihood of the procurement taking place. It is hoped this will give potential providers greater confidence to invest for future business but although this may increase confidence that the work is out there public authorities should not give any guarantees to providers that they will win that work before the appropriate procurement process is carried out.

Engagement in effective pre-procurement dialogue with the supply market before the formal procurement process is started is also being encouraged. However public authorities must take care to avoid giving unfair advantage to one or more of the potential providers and ensure that all exchanges are transparent and compliant with the procurement Regulations.

The Government wants potential providers to report any non-compliance or deviation from the five key commitments above through a Mystery Shopper service. Previous similar initiatives have been under-utilised by suppliers - who are understandably nervous as to the impact a report will have on their potential customers. It remains to be seen whether this service will be sufficient to encourage Central Government bodies and public sector signatories to take their Pledge commitments seriously.

There have been claims (eg by NAVCA) that the Pledge is too focussed on the needs of big business. However the jury is out on whether as suggested by NAVCA's Chief Executive the Pledge is a good idea that has been executed badly.

The equivalent pledge for Local Authorities published in April in draft form by the Local Government Association  is available here.

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