Closing the GaaP in Public Sector Procurement

We are pleased to feature another perspective on GaaP - this comes from Pedro Paulo, CEO, Gatewit, leading e-procurement platform developer. 

As we approach election day, it’s little surprise that various aspects of government administration are being scrutinised. One such area is the government’s spending on IT contracts, and who these contracts are awarded to, with particular regard to suppliers within the small business sector.

Annual figures reveal that the gap between the value of public sector IT contracts being awarded to SMEs through the G-Cloud and those being awarded to large businesses is widening. As a result, small firms are concerned that they are “being muscled out.”

At the same time, the government has received criticism from those closely involved with its own procurement processes. Former G-Cloud chief Chris Chant recently claimed that Whitehall wasn’t committed to meeting its target of 25 percent of spending with SMEs, a sentiment echoed by government digital director Mike Bracken and government CTO Liam Maxwell, who both warned that current procurement processes can act as a barrier to smaller businesses.

There are, without doubt, experienced professionals working in public sector procurement who recognise the importance of a broader and more diverse supplier base, and the need to make the process more accessible in order to make this happen.

At its recent Sprint 15 digital overview event, the government announced a new model of delivering services that could provide SMEs with the platform they need to help them compete in the public sector. Government-as-a-Platform, or GaaP, has been designed to replace various departments’ own customised IT systems with shared, standardised platforms. In essence, it will see the government shift from its current model of buying packaged services, to enabling them instead.

GaaP will involve the creation of an API (Application Programming Interface) for each of the government’s new digital services, and then opening these APIs for the use of suppliers. The first tranche of these services will be for payments, messaging, and booking appointments, according to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, with a further 26 areas identified for future implementation.

The new model means that there will no longer be any need for the public sector to engage large enterprises for a full end-to-end solution, currently one of the main barriers preventing smaller businesses from taking part in any competition. By reducing dependency on certain private suppliers, time after time, such a platform will lower the risk of an oligopoly-style supplier-base emerging, and will put the government in a significantly better position to negotiate terms and prices.

SMEs will be able to take advantage of the platform to offer their services to government bodies via the centralised, open API without the need to build these services from scratch. As a result, they can reduce the risk of duplication and any associated costs, while improving the efficiency of the process.

From a public sector perspective, full details on each contract will be mapped to a centralised API allowing purchasing bodies full oversight of all suppliers, their actions and their terms of business. By enabling suppliers in the private sector to help themselves in bidding for contracts in the public sector, the GaaP model represents benefits for both buyers and sellers. It’s not a simple concept by any means and for it to succeed will require a fundamental change in the government’s perspective on its own procurement processes. It will need a commitment to the system and its component parts, such as utilising the centralised information on the supplier base for better contract management and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to use and take full advantage of the latest available procurement technology.

With the current system coming under intense political and public scrutiny, the benefits that GaaP promises have never been more important.

First Voice

  1. Dan2:

    Excellent article – many thanks.

    I am very interested in this area as government throws the term around with slightly different connotations each time it is used (and there is very little published by government to describe what they mean). What you describe above is certainly more in line with the original description of GaaP from Tim O Reilly.

    I was wondering though:

    i) for these common GaaP services – aren’t government at risk of creating a high level of lock-in (i.e. a monopoly) for that individual service (is it envisaged that only one supplier will be awarded the ‘messaging’ service for example)

    ii) how will these services provide resilience for government if everyone is using the same service

    iii) for services using these components – is there any conclusion on the contract/service management model that will be used. Will departments be able to buy a service from one supplier who then integrates the components into their own solution? Or will departments retain the risk on commercial and service integration?

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