Public procurement ‘not working as well as it should’, says Labour shadow minister

Gurjit Degun
3 June 2014

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4 June 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Current public sector procurement is “not working as well as it should be” and the government’s G-Cloud programme is not helping small businesses, research by the Labour party has found.

In an exclusive interview with SM, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office said there are many ways that procurement needs to adapt, and a “root and branch” approach is needed to look at IT procurement.

Chi Onwurah said the Labour’s Digital Government Review looks at digital government “in the wider sense and with the expectation that over the next parliament that government will become more digital”.

The review is looking at how to help small companies win more business. “Governments of all colours have been responsible for outsourcing procurement and IT to big providers, and there is the recognition that we lack innovation, also government can be locked-in to certain providers,” explained Onwurah, who is the MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central.

She said she would be interested in SM readers’ views on the G-Cloud IT framework because she has had feedback from many small businesses saying they found it “challenging and they don’t find it delivers services as they expected it to”.

Onwurah added: “This is really quite a comprehensive look not only at procurement on its own but how that relates to standards, and also the skills we have in-house. What I’m also told by local government and companies is that government is outsourcing the procurement process and outsourcing the solution, and sometimes outsourcing the assessment. So what skills are left within government to ensure that citizens are getting what they need and how do we build the skills within government?

“Nobody has said to me or to our review that procurement is working in the interest of the citizens, or is working as well as it should be. There are many ways in which procurement needs to adapt to the new challenges it’s going to face. A root and branch approach [is needed] to look at how IT procurement works now and how it needs to work in future.”

Onwurah added the Labour party would also like to see more transparency required from companies when it comes to late payment.

“We are reluctant to put in place further regulation to make companies do what they should be doing but obviously in the end it may be something that we have to look at.”

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