Making Government spend data more useful and a new LinkedIn discussion

We've written recently about the publication of Government spend data and whether it actually tells us anything useful.  Al Collier, Head of Procurement at Norfolk Council, has started a discussion on a LinkedIn group around the subject; you need to join the group to participate , but in summary Al is identifying the steps that could be taken to make the information provided more consistent, then look at how further value could be added to it.

Here are some of Al's thoughts (just a subset of what is on his list);

  • The authority should publish its contract database in a standard form, including a suitable identifier for the supplier (VAT number/companies house number/charity registration number)
  • Companies House should publish its data about which company owns which subsidiary in machine-readable form
  • Using the company registration number as a key, it would then be possible to see, say "how much is the public sector spending with all X Group companies" and "what proportion of public sector spend with X Group is under contracts to be renewed in the next two years". This would be valuable to both procurers and investors.
  • The Borders Agency publishes its data about prosecutions for employing illegal immigrants – so we can see “Which authorities do business with suppliers who have been convicted of immigration offences”
  • The Care Quality Commission publishes its inspection data - so we know "what proportion of social care spending is with social care providers whose standards are unsatisfactory".

It seems to me that the real issues in terms of assessing the value of procurement spend are things like; was the spend necessary? How does my council compare to others?  Did they run a robust procurement process to drive best value? Is the supplier reputable?

As we said before, the data as it is now doesn't get close to this.  And I certainly agree with Al that data needs to be published in a more structured and standardised manner if we're going to get anything useful out of this initiative.  More on this later this week.

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