Exclusive! Crown Commercial Service Pulls Crown Marketplace Tender

We have just learned that Crown Commercial Service is today pulling the tender for its Crown Marketplace programme - CMp. Crown Commercial Service published the contract opportunity a few months ago for the next stage of development of CMp – which we have written about previously here. However, today's news stunned the software firms who had taken time to bid by announcing that the tender was being terminated:

"Further to our recent communications regarding the G-Cloud call-off for the Crown Marketplace development phase, we have made some important decisions about the future of the programme. This includes reviewing our scope and focus for the immediate future and, crucially, how we ensure that this work is fully integrated across our Crown Commercial Service teams to ensure successful delivery. Consequently, a decision has been made to focus - at least in the short term - on successfully delivering digital projects which are already under way ... reluctantly we have no alternative but to cancel the G-Cloud call-off competition in which you have been engaged ..."

"We sincerely apologise for the considerable inconvenience and wish to take this opportunity to express our appreciation and to thank you whole-heartedly for you efforts during the call-off process and for your interest and engagement in the Crown Marketplace Programme during the past year."

We have spoken to a couple of the software providers who were in the running and it is fair to say that “not best pleased” would be underplaying their feelings. Words such as “disgraceful”, “appalling” and “ridiculous” were used, along with some we can’t repeat. “We’ve invested a huge amount of time and money in this, just to be told that ‘we’re not going to bother,’” said one.

Why has this happened? One of our contacts suggested that the whole initiative never had top-level Ministerial or even John Manzoni, head of the UK Civil Service, support. Another hypothesis is that a bidder “won” the competition but was not really credible; or it may be that the bids exposed the difficulties inherent in the specification.

We will probably find out at some stage what is behind this, but it is clearly a turnaround on priorities following Denham's update last year that "... we hosted our Supplier Open Day for potential partners. Almost 100 people from a range of blue chip firms attended, where a range of speakers including John Manzoni, head of the UK Civil Service, Malcolm Harrison, CEO of Crown Commercial Service (CCS), and myself outlined the importance of CMp to CCS’ future strategy and the tremendous opportunity for a future partner or partners to run the purchasing platform."

It is ironic as well that the news broke on the same day that the final assessment centre for Malcom Harrison’s replacement as CCS CEO is taking place. It’s unfortunate for Harrison too, as this means he will not exactly leave CCS next month in a blaze of glory – rather, with the complaints of the procurement tech world ringing in his ears …



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