“Arcane procurement rules” criticised by private sector bosses

In their letter to the Telegraph yesteray a pretty random selection of business leaders supports the shadow chancellors move to stop the planned rise in National Insurance.  Instead,

" Savings can be made by removing the blizzard of irrelevant objectives, restrictive working practices, arcane procurement rules and Whitehall interference" they say, such savings making the tax increase unnecessary.

Well, at the risk of offending both major parties, I personally agree with not increasing NI; it is a tax on jobs.  Full stop.  BUT.... I do get annoyed when a bunch of people who have no real understanding of public procurement lump 'arcane procurement rules' together with 'restrictive working practivces'.

Which 'arcane rules' would these be then?  The ones that let their companies have a fair chance to bid for and win government contracts?  The rules that try and ensure there is open, fair and transparent competition for public contracts across Europe?   That make fraud in public procurement pretty difficult - damn site more difficult than it is in many private sector companies actually.  And I can guarantee that Justin King (Sainsburys)  would be straight in to see the Permanent Secretary within hours if Tesco were awarded some huge food supply contract without proper and fair competition.

Now, I know public procurement can and should be improved.  We need for instance to look at how to accelerate the time it takes to let contracts.  But the 'arcane rules' are EU rules, so it is hard to blame any UK government for them anyway.  And frankly, even if we could remove some rules, and improve the procurement performance, I don't see how that is going to contribute much towards the £6 billion NI non-increase.

So , Chief Executives, please do tell us which rules you would like to get rid of, just how you will get the EU to agree, how your changes will drive savings, and your calculation of how much those savings will be.  And promise that your firms won't challenge public procurement decisions made on a whim and a fancy once the 'arcane rules' are abolished!

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