Ofgem has been forced to apologise after the government’s Mystery Shopper Scheme, which allows suppliers to raise concerns about public procurement practice, upheld a complaint by a supplier over delays in getting feedback.
A report released by the government today, detailing the latest cases dealt with by the scheme, outlined how a complaint by a “prime contractor” prompted an investigation into the way the energy regulator had handled a major tender.
It related to a nine-month contract advertised by Ofgem, in March this year, for a delivery partner for the development of an energy customer database comprising around 8m records.
The supplier did not make it onto the shortlist for the contract, which was worth up to £1.5m.
Six suppliers were chosen to take part in a “final evaluation” presentation stage for the contract to develop a database to drive customer engagement in the retail energy market by prompting more disengaged customers to switch supplier.
In its summary of the complaint, the report stated: “The original advert did not mention a proposal stage and the supplier considered this was a deviation from the normal process. The supplier considered this change gave other suppliers an unfair chance to put forward their proposals.”
It added: “Despite repeated requests for a follow-up meeting to discuss this issue and to get more detailed feedback from the bid team, Ofgem have consistently not responded to their requests.”
The investigation into the complaint found that the requirement for written proposals had been stated in the published advertisement on the government's digital marketplace.
However, detailing the outcome of the complaint, the report stated: “The Crown Commercial Service Digital Commercial Agreement Team confirmed that authorities must notify and provide feedback to unsuccessful and successful suppliers at both shortlisting stages and after evaluation.”
It added: “Ofgem acknowledged that their capacity sometimes restricts the amount of time they can spend handling supplier feedback. This has been highlighted in their proposals for re-structuring procurement currently underway.”
The report concluded: “Ofgem stated that they always strive to ensure a fully compliant process is conducted and where complaints are made, aim to ensure they are adequately dealt with. In this case, they acknowledge there was a long delay in responding, for which they apologised.”
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