Sharp rise in complaints about public tenders

7 September 2011

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7 September 2011 | Adam Leach

The number of complaints from suppliers about public procurements has almost quadrupled over the past four years.

Data acquired under a freedom of information request from the Office of Government Commerce – since incorporated into the Efficiency and Reform Group – by law firm McGrigors revealed 73 complaints were made about public buying processes in 2010/11. This compared with just 14 in 2007/08.

But the research also suggests the government is now taking action to tackle grievances. In 2010/2011, 22 per cent of tenders were amended following complaints, compared to none in the two years previously. Overall, 89 per cent of complaints made this year were investigated, compared with just 45 per cent the year before.

Stuart Cairns, director at McGrigors, said: “The government is coming under intense pressure from bidders to investigate complaints thoroughly. Bidders are increasingly aware of their rights under procurement law and, as such, are much more likely to take the government to court if they feel the bidding process was flawed.”

The law firm added that the increase in protests this year could partly be attributed to the Cabinet Office’s ‘mystery shopper’ initiative. Through the scheme, an anonymous complaints procedure was established so SMEs could lodge objections about purchasing procedures.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office, said: “It is good to see more and more business using Cabinet Office feedback services – feedback from these routes allows us to investigate problems and make real changes. We want public sector procurement to be transparent and fair.”

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