Firstly, there are conflicting messages regarding the Government’s purchasing procedures. Retail tycoon Phillip Green very publically advised Whitehall to aggregate spending by centralising procurement. This approach would discourage public buyers from using small suppliers.
Another challenge is ensuring small suppliers benefit from reforms by publicising Government opportunities more effectively. The Scottish Government has piloted a single supplier database, allowing suppliers to register for tenders across all government departments. This would certainly make pitching for business more accessible to small suppliers; some of whom claim to have to monitor many government portals to seek opportunities.
These portals, while allowing contractors to register, do not validate the information provided. One way of verifying businesses’ processes and supply chain is through use of a third-party accreditation scheme which can help improve their chances of winning business from the public sector.
The health and safety compliance industry is already working together to maintain standards through SSIP (Safety Schemes in Procurement), promoting recognition among accreditation schemes.
Planned reforms will ensure public sector buyers must declare all expenditure over £500. This will increase accountability and make the award of contracts more transparent. Third-party providers can also assist local governments meet their obligations to SMEs by maximising the benefits of localism.
Awarding more contracts to SMEs will be a drawn-out process, as the public sector has been slow to embrace similar changes previously. Strong leadership is required but I fear it may be some time until smaller suppliers will truly benefit from the planned reforms.
Sandy Duncan Head of sales, Exor Management Services www.exorms.co.uk