Public contract complaints change procurement practice

17 August 2013

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18 August 2013 | Will Green

A total of 463 complaints have been made to the government concerning public sector contracts since a “mystery shopper” scheme was launched in 2011.

The Cabinet Office (CO), which administers the scheme, says 392 cases had been resolved at the end of June of this year, and 80 per cent of these have led to a change in the way public sector bodies buy goods and services.

In the latest batch of complaints 45 cases have been resolved since November 2012, with the main areas of complaint continuing to be overdue payments, pre qualification questionnaires (PQQ), financial appraisal and frameworks.

Half of the complaints led to contracting authorities changing future practices and in 11 instances live procurements were altered following CO intervention.

The complaints included two against the University of Sunderland for charging £50 for invitation to tender documents, which were upheld and led to a policy change, and another against NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) from a supplier who wanted to email invoices but was unable to do so.

The CO mystery shopper report said: “NHS SBS has confirmed that it is not possible to email invoices to them at this time.”

Another supplier complained to Barts Health NHS Trust he needed NHS computer network accreditation for a contract, but could only achieve this if he had already won an NHS contract. In response the trust changed its policy so suppliers only need to obtain accreditation after winning a contract.

Meanwhile, the CO has announced that central government direct spend with SMEs reached 10.5 per cent in 2012/13, against an “aspiration” of 25 per cent by 2015. This compares with a figure of 6.5 per cent in 2009/10.

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