Public procurements get 120-day deadline

24 November 2011

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22 November 2011 | Adam Leach

Central government buyers must complete procurement processes within 120 working days from the start of next year.

Under the new directive announced by Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude yesterday, all central government procurements, excluding those deemed too complex, will be completed within 120 working days, compared with an average of 200 days, from the point they are posted in the OJEU.

To achieve this, there will be closer and earlier engagement with suppliers and markets to gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities on offer, enabling them to produce improved invitations to tender. He said the government wanted to “bust myths” that it is against EU rules to engage with suppliers.

“Before procurement should come commissioning – scanning the market to see what suppliers there are and what they can offer,” said Maude. “In future, major procurements should only take place after we have spoken informally to our potential suppliers. So we can make swift off-the-shelf purchases where appropriate or quickly choose the right supplier for the job.”

Speaking to SM, Jon Hughes, executive chairman of Future Purchasing and co-author of a recent report intopublic sector procurement, welcomed the move but suggested data should be published to enable scrutiny. “This is important because it is actually a proxy for the right type of managerial focus on procurement process, effectiveness and efficiency. It would also highlight the parts of the sector that are dragging their feet, so that pressure, and sanctions if necessary, can be applied.”

It was also announced that the government would:

  1. Increase communication with current and future suppliers over contact opportunities.

  2. Mandate that all civil servants tasked handling major procurements are trained in the new approach.

  3. Publish details on more than £50 billion of potential business opportunities (mainly in the areas of IT and facilities management), with more areas being covered in the future.

Set up a “commissioning academy” to train “capable, confident and courageous” public sector procurement professionals.

Commenting on the decision to publish more contracts, CIPS CEO David Noble said: “Lack of transparency has been one of the biggest problems in public sector procurement so the move to publish details of potential projects is probably the most innovative for decades.”

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