Simplifying public procurement

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A Government scheme aimed at making it easier for SMEs to win public sector contracts is being proclaimed a success.

In just 18 months since its launch, over 300 complaints have been investigated through Mystery Shopper – an initiative that asks businesses to ‘shop’ bad public procurement practice.

In those cases which have been completed, 78% have resulted in positive changes.

The Mystery Shopper’s first progress report shows that 80% of all cases raised had issues with the procurement process, with a number of SMEs concerned about unachievable pre-qualification financial requirements and the lack of early market engagement.

In 38% of concerns about the procurement process, SMEs cited lengthy and complex pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) which disadvantage smaller businesses by setting too much emphasis on financial guarantees and requirements.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said: “Giving SMEs a chance to have their voices heard when bureaucratic barriers stand in their way can really make a difference to their business, and to the growth of our economy. In just 18 months we’ve seen nearly 80% of investigated cases result in a positive outcome.

“Remember, this service is anonymous. It’s in the best interests of SMEs to continue to use our Mystery Shopper service – with their help we’ll be able to drive even further improvements and stamp out bad practice across public sector contracts.”