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22 November 2011 | Adam Leach
Central government buyers must complete
procurement processes within 120 working days from the start of next year.
Under the new directive announced by Cabinet Office
minister Francis Maude yesterday, all central government procurements,
excluding those deemed too complex, will be completed within 120 working days,
compared with an average of 200 days, from the point they are posted in the
To achieve this, there will be closer and
earlier engagement with suppliers and markets to gain a deeper understanding of
the opportunities on offer, enabling them to produce improved invitations to
tender. He said the government wanted to “bust myths” that it is against EU
rules to engage with suppliers.
“Before procurement should come
commissioning – scanning the market to see what suppliers there are and what
they can offer,” said Maude. “In future, major procurements should only take
place after we have spoken informally to our potential suppliers. So we can
make swift off-the-shelf purchases where appropriate or quickly choose the
right supplier for the job.”
Speaking to SM, Jon Hughes, executive chairman of Future Purchasing and co-author of a recent report intopublic sector procurement,
welcomed the move but suggested data should be published to enable scrutiny. “This
is important because it is actually a proxy for the right type of managerial
focus on procurement process, effectiveness and efficiency. It would also
highlight the parts of the sector that are dragging their feet, so that
pressure, and sanctions if necessary, can be applied.”
It was also announced that the government
Increase communication with
current and future suppliers over contact opportunities.
Mandate that all civil servants
tasked handling major procurements are trained in the new approach.
Publish details on more than
£50 billion of potential business opportunities (mainly in the areas of IT and
facilities management), with more areas being covered in the future.
Set up a “commissioning
academy” to train “capable, confident and courageous” public sector procurement
Commenting on the decision to publish more
contracts, CIPS CEO David Noble said: “Lack of transparency has been one of the
biggest problems in public sector procurement so the move to publish details of
potential projects is probably the most innovative for decades.”