Public Sector procurement has always been a stringent business with regulation upon regulation restricting the process. Following the announcement of the Scottish Government’s Procurement Reform Bill, has it gone too far?
According to a BBC report, the new bill will allow UK public sector bodies to use items such as blacklisting and zero-hour contracts against suppliers when awarding contracts. Unions and politicians are claiming the bill is a positive step allowing the tax payers money to be spent on socially responsible suppliers and reducing the possibility of another media expose on an irresponsible supplier.
Some of the clauses could also result in companies having to provide training, apprenticeships or opportunities for disabled people as part of the contract. It is a tough job to be a supplier these days, trying to achieve all aims of low costs, environmentally friendly and to be social responsibility, no mean feat. Is this bill social responsibility to the extreme?
Scotland is currently the leader for Public Procurement reform and this has clearly further extended Scotland’s drive to stay in front, impressive for a small country. Alastair Merrill, director of procurement and commercial for Scottish Procurement, stated that this bill will "maximise procurement’s contribution to Scotland’s economic growth delivering social and environmental benefits, supporting innovation, and promoting public procurement processes and systems which are transparent, streamlined, standardised, proportionate, fair and business friendly”.
Whereas the bill is simply dictating how procurement activity should be run by government bodies. One size never fits all.
Many say that public procurement had already gone too far with the EU Public Procurement Regulations restricting the competitive nature of procurement in the public sector. Surely reform bills such as this result in time and money being spent on staying within the law when many feel the law has just gone too far. Procurement is supposed to be the department that is innovative and forward looking, bringing in the big savings.
The private sector is thriving with negotiations and new landmark contracts while managing to be socially responsible and save money. Whereas public sector procurement is notorious with paying over the odds while being held back by so many regulations.
Why limit the supplier responses through the law. Let private bodies use their skills with tender documentation and evaluation criteria to find the most suitable and responsible supplier in line with the key requirements of each contract? This bill is another frustrating challenge in the life of public sector procurement.