We talk to our CEO Keith Armstrong and asked him to share his views.
The long awaited Green Paper was published on 15 December 2020. Consultation ends on 10 March 2021 and with 42 consultation questions, shows how overdue a review is on the way public sector procurement is mandated in the UK.
Overall the proposals in the Green Paper aim to simplify the processes we, as procurement professionals have to adhere to. Similarly, simplifying processes will help with supply chain engagement too. It is clear from the way the paper is set out that Framework Agreements are now seen as being somewhat out dated, fixed and inflexible.
Currently, procurement regulations are specific to areas of the public sector in the UK – defence, security, utilities and concessions. The proposed changes include a uniform approach. Whilst this would help simplification, I feel that there still needs to be consideration for the way some commodities are procured (such as the ‘old’ Part B concessions). I think the question needs to be asked: “will unifying the approach help deliver a better outcome for public sector buyers and the organisations they serve.”
I support the proposal to have a new National Procurement Policy Statement, meaning Contracting Authorities must have a regard to supporting it. A new unit, supported by the Cabinet Office with a panel of experts is an independent way of ensuring a ‘body’ oversees public sector procurement. This is something truly long overdue.
3 new simple modern procedures are being proposed, superseding the 8 at present, for a simpler draw down process, introducing a flexible negotiation method. Negotiation has always been off the menu in public sector procurement and linked to threats of bribery. Introducing a negotiation method, whilst adding an element of commerciality, will take some time for public sector buyers to adopt, given the serious implications of negotiation under the current regulations.
Two elements of the Green Paper that strike me as being key to any amended regulations is linking streamlined payment processes into the procurement process and having a central database of poor performing suppliers. What isn’t clear is how poor performing suppliers would be addressed if they were tendering for new opportunities – would they be excluded/marked down?
Reducing administration of a procurement process is also outlined in the Green Paper. This will help public sector buyers to concentrate more on the front end of the procurement process rather than get bogged down in ‘red tape.’ In order to adopt a more streamlined process, technology needs to support a more ‘end to end’ process, rather than looking at the procurement process on its own – supplier payments, supplier performance and contract formation and management should be conjoined to help not just public sector buyers ensure robust contracts, but help the supply chain should any operational issues arise during the life of a contract. This is something I regularly see – an operational issue, rather than an issue of how the contract was procured, but due to the silo nature of these elements they don’t go hand in hand.
Overall I feel the Green Paper will open opportunity for the public sector to become more commercially savvy, and provide greater flexibility whilst maintaining an open and transparent process. However, timescales to implement such changes (which as I said before are long overdue) would require careful planning, as the public sector and the supply chain will need to adopt.