Competition watchdog the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will investigate the way Government and local authorities buy services in a bid to ensure that competition law is being respected. The OFT has already studied the role of Government in markets and plans to spend the next year analysing the Government's role in buying, …
One easy fix...
...they could make is to instruct public sector purchasing teams not to put "must have experience of supplying product/service X to the public sector", and just have "must have experience of supplying product/service X" in their tendors - that would open up the market significantly rather than limiting it to the ~3 big public sector suppliers!
Re: One easy fix
couple of bits
1. the procurement rules do actually stop overly restricting clauses, so providing services to the public sector would be a non-starter, but experience of delivering a particular type of service (any sector) would be legit, dependant on what your trying to run (e.g. betting lives on untested software and hardware tends to be frowned on, and a company with a good track record would be scored better than one with a bad or no track record)
2. Legal time requirements, ministers like rushing stuff through, so you can end up in a situtation where the public body would face legal action, if it went with an innovative bespoke build, rather than a COTS solution.
I work for an LA, and procurement is already a mess. We can no longer use suppliers we've used for years and who we know give us a good price. We have to go out for tender now for everything over £50.
Our GIS team had a conflict with procurement recently when they had their mapping license and maintenance renewal quote from Ordnance Survey through. Now since we use OS mapping this is something only OS can supply, but procurement told them to go out to tender for it. Surprisingly since the only other option was to move to a completely different mapping system, costing tens of thousands in implementation of new hardware and software systems, the OS quote won.
It just gets crazy. They start with a basic good idea: "lets watch what we're spending" and then somehow remove common sense from the proceedings, so that the exercise ends up being much more costly than the saving.
RE: Oh FFS
As a PM with both public and private sector PM experience, I can vouch for the fact that the Public sector rules are torture, even when applied correctly. However I personally do feel that the "actual rules" do need to be there for public accountability, despite my frequent cursing.
Unfortunately, I have met too many "procurement managers" in LA's who appear to only have a passing aquaintance with the legal requirements.
Private Sector procurement is quicker and cheaper, as it has less controls and audit requirements.
Having run an LA GIS team, my imediate response would be to drop a copy of the Master Services Agreement on procurement officers desk, and ask them which bit of the nationally negioated agreement they would like to amend.
So, your not alone, I have been at meetings where the Procurement bod wasstill trying to "correct" a senior solicitor in the council as to what rules are! (at that point we where down to actually quoting sections of legislation and SI's)
Butt Covering and Job Creation
As procurement mistakes by LA's tends to end up on the front page of the local rag, causing many hours/days of scrutiny meetings, there is a lot of Butt covering in LA Procurement.
One could also observe that the more difficult procuring anything becomes, the more secure the procurement teams jobs are, when councils are looking for voter friendly ways of cutting jobs.
The current situation with Government seeking savings has allowed the Cabinet Office and Government Departments & Local Government to justify very poor procurement practices. I have seen innovative bid ideas from one supplier being shared with other bidders (to make sure the preferred supplier does not lose), soft market testing being used to justify speedy and less costly single soucing (justification is less cost for procurement!) and 'free' supplier staff being involved in pre-procurement ITT preparation and then yes the supplier is then allowed to bid. Unfortunaley the Cabinet Office have identified many problems and put in place some changes but in the confusion while the changes are being implemented a lot of poor procurement practices are being justified. The larger suppliers are just loving this as they are favoured over SMEs (because large suppliers are seen as being safe in the current economic environment!).
Smack in the face?
Is this Whitehall's way of smacking in the face the chap pulled in by ConDems to tighten/smarten up procurement?
(You know, the chap who runs lots of high street fashion shops owned by his Missus with profits syphoned off out of the UK)