Does action match rhetoric when supporting SMEs with public procurement?

23 October 2013
Gurjit Degun, senior reporter, Supply ManagementThere was a strong emphasis on public sector bodies doing more to help small businesses, because they are the “lifeblood of the economy”, at the Scottish Government’s ninth National Procurement Conference in Glasgow yesterday. Following an independent review into procurement processes in the construction industry, the deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government has already taken on board one of the recommendations – Project Bank Accounts. A trial will see ring-fenced bank accounts from which payments are made to all members of the supply chain at the same time. The review’s deputy chair Ken Lewandowski told me they found many SMEs “have gone to the wall” because of large companies holding payment, for up to 200 days in one particular case. Sturgeon also told the conference the Scottish Government has made good progress with SMEs as around 45 per cent of spend now goes to small businesses, and small firms are winning 80 per cent of contracts advertised on the government portal. “It is challenging for small businesses to be faced with large tender documents so we’re looking at how we work with industry to help businesses especially SMEs on the skills needed to compete for public sector contracts,” she said. Sally Collier, executive director of government procurement policy and capability at the Cabinet Office also touched on the subject. She said the UK Government is committed for 25 per cent of business to be with SMEs. She added that it can learn from what is being done in Scotland. Public sector bodies have been urged to introduce policies to encourage business from SMEs for a long time. Do the announcements from Sturgeon and commitment from Whitehall mean the message has now got through and action is being taken?
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