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Public sector procurement issues revealed by report

A Cabinet Office report on its Mystery Shopper Service has revealed that many buyers and sellers are reporting on-going issues with the public sector IT procurement process.

The document, which covers September 2012 to February 2014, claims that “issues with technology and systems” is one of the top four problems reported.

Schools Management Information Services (MIS) were a frequent issue reported by Service users, with many shoppers claiming ICT services were not procured in line with recommendations made previously.

There were also complaints from suppliers that buying frameworks were commonly not used where one exists.

In response to this, the government claims it had advised a number of authorities of the Cloud First policy, reminding them cloud based solutions should also be consider as the first step.

The mystery shopping scheme, which covers both government and the wider public sector, was introduced in 2011 to help those, particularly suppliers, who had come across poor procurement practice in the public sector.

Incumbent suppliers “unfairly treated”

Besides technology issues, the Mystery Shoppers also expressed concern that the public sector procurement process disadvantages incumbent suppliers.

“We have seen an increasing number of complaints from suppliers who are holders of existing contracts, but who are not being given the chance to bid for new ones,” claims the report.

“It seems some incumbents are not being made aware that contracts will be changing in size or structure and not told when, how or where they will be advertised,” it added.

According to the document, “lack of communication” is the main problem and advises the public sector to speak to their suppliers and let them know what is happening.

However, the advice that suppliers be made aware of when their contracts are coming up for renewal contrasts with the “red lines” introduced by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude earlier this year.

These news rules surrounding government ICT states that tech contracts should not exceed £100 million, last for more than two years or have automatic extensions.