The results are in. After a mammoth consultation process, the government has set out its plans for the future of public procurement.
The green paper on Transforming Public Procurement generated more than 600 responses from contracting authorities, suppliers, industry bodies, and other stakeholders, touching on everything from transparency and capability to social value and exclusions.
More than 70 pages – summing up hundreds more – of feedback, pushback, and suggestions, as the government seeks to implement a new procurement regime that saves the taxpayer money while driving social, environmental and economic benefits across the UK.
The broad themes will be familiar to anyone who has read the National Procurement Policy Statement. There are measures around skills and capability, commercial and procurement delivery, and social value.
The government has listened to feedback and amended or scrapped a number of suggestions, while explaining that it intends to take forward the majority for Parliamentary scrutiny in the coming years. It is realistic about the challenge that implementing many of the reforms will present.
Crown Commercial Service (CCS) will play a central role in delivering on the ambitions of the government in a number of ways:
Communication is key
Where the proposed legislation asks buyers and suppliers to publish new notices, sign up for the new, centralised digital platform, and use new, modern procedures, CCS will be there to support our customers with timely guidance and support. The new regime has at its heart simplicity and flexibility, but it will still require some explaining – as well as innovative digital products that support customers through the buying process.
Our new commercial agreements already have social value hardwired into them, and the responses to the green paper once again demonstrate the importance of being able to consider local priorities alongside the strategic priorities set by the government. We’re working now to ensure suppliers understand how to deliver community benefits through, for instance, infrastructure investment – growing our economy in a way that levels up all areas of the country.
Capability and capacity
The commercial profession across government generally and CCS in particular has a role to play in helping public procurement specialists from the whole public sector to prepare for the coming changes. Programmes already underway, like our Skills Academy, and the Contract Management Pioneer Programme we’re running with the LGA and Cabinet Office, will help our partners in local government, the health and social care sector, and beyond, to develop commercial capability and capacity.
Oversight and transparency
Finally, the government’s response to the green paper makes clear that it wants a simpler, more transparent system of oversight, including on supplier exclusions – protecting the public and tackling issues around poor performance, national security, and the rights of employees. This, coupled with greater transparency and accountability, will enable our customers to reward high performance, boost effective competition, and maximise the benefits of public procurement. CCS will support the Cabinet Office as it develops the digital tools required to enable the transparency agenda.
☛ Simon Tse is CEO of Crown Commercial Service