The windmills of the politician’s mind…SMEs and public procurement

Round,like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel,
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever-spinning reel....
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind!

("Windmills Of Your Mind"; Legrand, Bergman and Bergman)

Around we go... the UK Government thinks that public procurement is biased against smaller companies (SMEs).  Lord Young is going to do a review. (He's also going to look at other issues holding back SMEs, such as red tape - good.)

But he could save quite a lot of time on the procurement front - here's the Glover review, led by Anne Glover about two years ago for the last Government.  It lays out a pretty good direction for making public procurement more SME friendly, and OGC have been working to implement this for 18 months! (Declaration of interest; I was involved last year in some of their work).

So this looked like the wheel spinning and the coalition perhaps just wanting to put their stamp on what was already underway.  However, Francis Maude then made some announcements (see the Cabinet Office press release here) earlier this week that genuinely did go further than the previous Glover recommendations.  There is a commitment to a single PQQ for central Government, and:

The investigation of options to enable suppliers to submit standard PQQ data just once to further simplify the process for suppliers.

Now that sounds very sensible and attractive - and it is a very worthwhile aim.  However, it is also a lot more difficult to achieve than might be immediately obvious.  We'll take a look at why that is next week and suggest some critical success factors.

Finally, I  refer you to my previous post on the 'smoke and mirrors' of a 25% target for spend with SMEs.  I can't believe no-one is pointing out the emperor's new clothes on this one - that every public sector body almost certainly already awards 25% at least of its contracts (by volume) to SMEs!  (Every taxi booked, every restaurant, etc). It is the value of contracts that is important surely; that would be a more meaningful and challenging target for many organisations, who are unlikely to be fulfilling that currently.

And as it is a Friday, here is a rather wonderful piece of film / music.

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First Voice

  1. Daniel Warnock:

    I’m not sure a standard PQQ will make that much of a difference. They only tend to be used in OJEU procurements, which (since under the procurement regulations they have to be aggregated if at all possible), tend to go to the more experienced companies, biasing it against SMEs. Simplifying the majority of the questions won’t solve this.

    SMEs may indeed offer better value for money, flexibility, innovation etc, but this cannot be stated in the PQQ, which asks questions about a company’s background and experience.

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