SID4GOV procurement portal: an online marketplace for suppliers and buyers

Earlier this year Peter wrote an article looking at a new plan for public procurement with particular reference to the food standard initiative. The procurement of food and catering services will come under and be expected to adhere to a new framework that will define the evaluation criteria for selecting suppliers as part of the government’s plan to support local business. It will ensure food provided by public bodies, schools, hospitals, and so on, will be fresh, healthy, locally produced where possible and take into account best value for money (which doesn’t necessarily mean lowest cost).

The balanced scorecard, against which bidders will be judged, is designed to bring a consistent approach to buying food across the public sector, considering price, production methods, health, resource efficiency, socio-economic factors and quality of service. In his article Peter questioned how ‘cost’ was to be scored, given that it is a criterion which traditionally has influenced results to a large extent. He also questioned the role and even continued existence of SID4GOV, originally the common supplier information database for the health sector.

Spend Matters likes to tie up all loose ends in its research and reporting, so we were very keen to take the opportunity, when it came our way, to talk to Adrian Segens, Head of Sales, NQC. NQC is the developer of SID4GOV, now enhanced further as the platform to enable all public sector buyers to access supplier information through a single online system. It gathers information directly from suppliers and provides a single view of critical supplier data, offering increased scope, enhanced functionality and accurate, up-to-date data. NQC was founded in 2003 by a partnership of individual public procurement experts. It has worked closely with the Cabinet Office and the Home Office on sustainability and information security reporting respectively. This yearit became involved with the development of the public procurement standard initiative when DEFRA engaged it to implement the balanced scorecard within SID4GOV and roll out the system.

Adrian told us the good news is that SID4GOV is indeed alive and well and is being rolled out on across more and more public departments to which it can bring equal benefits in an ongoing programme, not just the food procurement initiative. “The platform essentially replaces the need for businesses to fill out the same pre-procurement data many times for many tenders. Selling to government used to be quite an onerous task, which could involve a three-fold process, time-consuming and repetitive. What our platform does is encourage the small and medium-size business, sometimes deterred by the complexity of the process, to bid in a simpler, more streamlined, more user-friendly way. The barriers to competing are therefore hugely reduced. This of course benefits the industry because the playing field is levelled. SID4GOV has one point of entry and makes visible to everyone the information on suppliers.”

Just over 225,000 individual company profiles already are housed in the system, and about 1700 government buyers are using it. It is a very active system – and growing.

“The system’s questionnaires obtain a company’s background information; it then pulls in D&B data to support the profile, and asks questions about sustainability, information assurances and the like. For different procurements the questions are tailored accordingly, so for food supply contracts, it might involve questions on sourcing transparency that would then be assessed against the balanced scorecard. In the future, when a catering contract is put out, all of this information is retained in one repository, eliminating the tireless need for companies to reregister the same core information. It provides a portal where all supplier information can easily be stored and retrieved.”

Adrian explains why the dependence on cost criteria has become a thing of the past. “Where awards have often been price-driven, more specific criteria now comes into play, like environmental impact and social influences. Cost is weighted in a more balanced way against the whole set of criteria that make up the new Government Buying Standard for food. Our technology ensures that it’s easy for a supplier to respond fully to those criteria through a series of dynamically driven questions that ensure that they are only asked for relevant information.

One benefit that suppliers will find incredibly useful is the ability to have immediate feedback on the completion of the questionnaire. Where an entry has not performed particularly well, a .pdf file is sent to the supplier outlining the areas where it fell down, and highlighting which aspects of its operations and performance it could develop to help it win more public contracts. This is a very strong advantage to using the system.

Are the market players geared up for a change in industry standards and processes? Well, some firms, of course, already have enormous government contracts in place and some aspire to that. The difference is that, where large company A might have deep commitment to sustainability, for example, they are able to express that through the system. They are seen to be taking the right steps and doing things (like creating equal opportunities) fairly. Companies already gathering this kind of information are a step ahead of the game. But, in fact, all companies have this opportunity to represent themselves when dealing with government contracts: it’s all about sharing of information -- so when it comes to compliance award stage, full visibility is already there.

Now – if we are asking whether SID4GOV is still around, then it’s a safe bet that many suppliers out there are equally unsure. So, with new public procurement standards compliance soon upon us, it would be wise for any potential supplier to be prepared with all their information gathered and ready for transparency. All they have to do is go and register in SID4GOV.

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    As a supplier of Modular Buildings and portable accommodation based in the midlands we are specifically interested in HS2 opportunities although realise all contracts will be issued to JV’s .
    will the opportunities be published via SID4 please advise

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