Businesses remain sceptical when it comes to public sector procurement

WhitehallThe jaded view that most UK businesses have of public sector procurement practices and winning Government work is evident in two new surveys, from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE). The CBI survey of 100 of its members found that 60 per cent have not seen an improvement in commercial skills applied in public procurement and one in five think they have actually deteriorated over the last year. Two thirds (67 percent) claimed that performance in standardising procurement processes is poor and a similar number said lowest cost was still driving most contracting decisions. The RAE meanwhile is calling for Government to integrate procurement processes into projects at an earlier stage and make it easier for smaller firms to win parts of major contracts.

The CBI survey claims that inconsistency across government departments and a short-term approach based primarily on achieving lowest cost are the biggest concerns. Respondents also said that new approaches such as the Crown Commercial Service’s Mystery Shopper mechanism help although more than one third (35 percent) said they still face lengthy pre-qualification questionnaires.

As a result the CBI is calling on the government to adopt a more “collaborative procurement strategy that will unlock savings and improvements”.

A similar complaint lies at the heart of the RAE report. It calls for government buyers to become “intelligent clients” and that a clear procurement vision from the outset of any project is vital to its delivery. “Those who manage procurement projects for government departments need to have good knowledge and understanding of the sector from which they are commissioning, and consider the entire life-cycle of projects when considering tenders”, the report added.