“UK’s post-Brexit and covid procurement strategy needs radical reform”

Aug 31, 2021

CEO, Comtek Network Systems UK Ltd and chair the DBF

The UK’s golden opportunity to reform the public procurement rules could be shamefully missed.

The government’s proposal to adopt the vast majority of the EU’s directives on public procurement is a missed opportunity.

Small businesses need to have easy access to public tenders without burdening bureaucracy and a painful tender process.

The present tender system has been designed to keep small businesses out.

Currently lucrative framework contracts are mainly awarded to large organisations (with their shareholders possibly overseas) and can last up to eight years, hence locking out the rest of the businesses from such opportunities.

The government’s new reformed procurement rules, as in the past, will be open to overseas companies, hence creating employment in other countries.

It is total madness that we cannot reform our procurement strategy to help our indigenous businesses.

The system is also based on historic credit ratings published by mainly US-based organisations such as Dunn and Bradstreet or Experian.

Our small businesses will find it difficult to reach their required credit ratings, and are therefore excluded from the tender, even if they have much better products and services.

Small companies are the UK’s most loyal, patriotic businesses, creating the vast majority of the jobs within our communities.

Small businesses have very little confidence in the UK’s public procurement policy, especially after recent high-profile scandals reported by the national media.

The present procurement system awards on the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT). It doesn’t take into account the great social and environmental long-term advantages of procuring from local homegrown businesses.

The public good must be at the heart of the government’s procurement strategy. Simplification of the present system, making it much easier for small businesses to tender and win, will bring about huge benefits to our struggling post-Covid economy.

It will strengthen small businesses helping them to grow, employ local people and to spend within our communities. This is a common sense way of designing a transparent, community-focused strategy which would revive our economy after the pandemic.

Even if the UK government decides to continue with the existing outdated European directives focusing on large businesses, the Welsh Government should adopt a more common-sense strategy for Wales.

The Welsh Government must put public good, together with the environmental and social advantages of local businesses, well above the size of the corporation when it comes to scoring in the procurement system.