+44 207 960 2801 [email protected]

PLEASE PROCURE RESPONSIBLY

“Please Procure Responsibly – The state of public service commissioning” by Joshua Pritchard and Rose Lasko-Skinner, March 2019.

A brief comment on Reform’s latest report

By DeNové LLP

No system is perfect; this is as true of public procurement as it is of anything else. Anyone who has worked in procurement for any length of time will be intimately acquainted with both the positive and negative aspects of the current processes. Equally, they will be aware of the collapse of Carillon in early 2018. This most public of failures suggests that the public procurement process is in dire need of a shake-up, and Reform’s recent report confirms this.

Reform, the leading think tank for public service reform, released a report in March 2019 laying out the many failings of the current system, as well as a substantive list of recommendations to improve the process for government, businesses and the public.

Reform’s Recommendations

In the report, Reform lists ten recommendations that would benefit all parties involved. We aim to give a distilled overview of each in this post, and we highly recommend reading the full report for yourself. You can find it here.

  1. Objective ‘make or buy’ flowcharts to be created

Reform is highly critical of the current ‘make or buy’ process, which has resulted in a high frequency of outsourcing for the wrong services, and therefore an unnecessary increase in spending. Reform recommends considering whether a service “naturally lends itself to outsourcing”, as well as focusing on the characteristics of the service itself, not the market context. To provide guidance, they have laid out ten questions they believe commissioners should consider before making any ‘make or buy’ decisions. Find them on page 22 of the report.

  1. A national guidance framework and toolkit should be produced, with a focus on identifying and quantifying social value.

Commissioners need to ensure that public spending achieves the greatest possible value for society, not the smallest amount of expenditure for the procuring body. As the public’s money is being spent, it is only fair that it be on a solution which offers social value in return.

The splintered nature of current advice on how to ensure social value makes doing so difficult, and many commissioners feel they are “freestyling” due to the lack of concentrated guidance, hence Reform’s recommendation of a national guidance framework.

  1. The PSTA (Public Service Transformation Academy) should receive an annual funding grant of £60,000.
  2. A national training framework (a free digital course) should be implemented to those procuring over OJEU thresholds.

Reform combined recommendations 3 and 4, so we have done so too. Up to now, emphasis has been placed on upskilling central government departments, usually at the expense of local authorities. This has resulted in a disparity in the commercial expertise held by central and local procurement teams. Reform recommends implementing and increasing training and events for local authorities to level the playing field.

  1. Government Commercial Function should expand to include an advisory service.

A focus on commercial skills is an important part of the reforms needed in the public sector. Commercial expertise capacity building in local authorities does not go far enough and a huge pool of expertise is utilised only by central government to the detriment of local authorities. Furthermore, the high turnover of commissioner staff has an unfavourable effect, especially on local authorities. Therefore, Reform suggests the provision of Government Commercial’s advisory services through Public Service Transformation Academy’s regional hubs to provide support for commissioners and maximise bidding potential.

  1. A ‘statement of responsibility’ regime should be adopted by all government departments involved in commissioning, so that all involved in supply chains are aware of the responsibilities and accountabilities involved.

Firstly, Reform has noted the contract inflexibility that is currently common in procurement, the burden of which usually falls on service users. This increases risks, which recommendation 6 seeks to reduce. Reform suggests that contract flexibility should support service delivery innovation. This means shifting to Outcomes-Based Commissioning (OBC) and placing more onus on what citizens/service users want, rather than what services or works are being purchased. Secondly, Reform recommends using a common risk appraisal standards framework to encourage a less ‘aggressive’ transfer of risks to suppliers. Thirdly, accountability is a key concern, and a lack thereof has resulted in a loss of confidence in public sector procurement. Making the boundaries of accountability clearer places the focus of procurement back onto the beneficiary/service user. (Page 38-51)

  1. Updated guidance should be issued regarding publication of information on Contracts Finder, including a standard minimum requirement of information.
  2. Redaction/Non-publication may be permitted, but a case must be presented to the Cabinet Office.
  3. Lists of Authorities who do not meet obligations regarding Contracts Finder should be published, be accessible, and a three-strike system should require “black-listing” for non-compliance.

Recommendations 7 through 9 highlight the lack of transparency in public sector procurement. The frustration towards the lack of available information was touched on in the Institute for Government’s report ‘Government Procurement: The scale and nature of contracting in the UK’, published in December 2018. Recommendation 6 seeks accountability, while recommendations 7-9 seek to support and enforce this through transparency and compliance. It has been clearly recognised by many, both within and outside of government, that this is a much-needed step forward.

  1. An independent review of the current regulatory landscape of outsourcing in public services should be commissioned, ultimately to move towards standardisation, healthy competition, sustainability and social value.

Reform feels that the audits in place to ensure governance of the procurement system are not suitable, and that regulation needs to be stricter, especially regarding the management of public money and the value for money across public services. Some have suggested that a new regulator is need, one that is independent from government.

Conclusion

In short, all of Reform’s recommendations seek to increase transparency for both the government and the public, and, in doing so, allow both parties to hold commissioners to account. There are clear challenges, but should they be overcome, these changes will bolster the procurement process and allow for new and exciting competitions and developments in the future.

To grasp the full scope of Reform’s recommendations, the full report is available here.

DeNové LLP, Lauren McNeilage & Nancy Laidler

 


Reform is a registered charity and the leading Westminster think tank for public service reform. Its mission is to set out ideas that will improve public services for all and deliver value for money.

DeNové is a London based business development and copywriting agency. We work with clients across Europe, refining sales strategies, finding and winning new business.

DeNové was made aware of the report by diginomica, a media property designed to serve the interests of enterprise leaders in the digital era, please read the article here.

The Armed Forces Covenant and Procurement

We have recently gone through the process of signing the Armed Forces Covenant ourselves and being mindful of the frequency with which our customers encounter it during the procurement process. Therefore, we felt it was worth delving into the background of the Armed Forces covenant, and its benefits.

Background to the Armed Forces Covenant

The Armed Forces, by the very nature of their job, put the needs of the Nation first. This often means that they forgo aspects of “normal” life enjoyed by those of use outside the armed forces, as do their families. First introduced into parlance in 2000, and solidified by the Armed Forces Act 2011, the Covenant is a promise, from the nation, to all those who have served:

“the whole nation has a moral obligation to the members of the Naval Service, the Army and the Royal Air Force, together with their families. They deserve our respect and support, and fair treatment.”

Whilst a covenant usually implies some form of legal agreement, the Armed Forces Covenant has no basis in law and is instead an informal understanding. This, however, in no way undermines the seriousness of the Covenant.

Impact on Procurement

The impact of the Covenant has made its way into public sector procurement, most notably with 2016’s Procurement Policy Note (PPN) – Armed Forces Covenant, encouraging organisations to sign the Covenant. Since the issue of this notice, no doubt you will have noticed that many procurement packs mention the Armed Forces Covenant, its principles, and where to sign it.

Whilst it is not a compulsory or legal requirement, and therefore having no impact on the award of any contract, Tendering Authorities are keenly aware of the significance of the Covenant and encourage all bidders to make their pledge.

Signing the Covenant

If you would like to make your Armed Forces Covenant pledge, follow the link provided and follow the instructions. It couldn’t be simpler.

  • Download the template
  • Fill in your company details
  • Amend the pledge to suit the nature of your business
  • Send your completed pledge, in PDF form, to the email address given

Once your email has been sent there is roughly a two-and-a-half week wait before your pledge will go live and you will join over 3500 companies, organisations and charities who have pledged their support for the Armed Forces.

You can keep track alphabetically or view the complete list here.

Social Value

Social Value impact is becoming ever more important in procurement, and the Armed Forces Covenant pledge is part of this. The Covenant allows companies to do what they can within the remit or nature of their business. In some cases, companies exceed these standard expectations.

An example that springs to mind is Veolia, who in 2018 went above and beyond, re-singing the Armed Forces Covenant and upgrading their commitment to the Armed Forces. With more than 400 employees who are current or former military personnel, and incredible sensitivity towards the leave requirements of those involved with the Armed Forces, Veolia have set a great example. Read more about Veolia’s renewed pledge here.

The Armed Forces Covenant

We are proud to say we have signed the Armed Forces Covenant. The armed forces are important to us, with personal relationships with current and former service men and women, and we are pleased we can honour them in this way.

The Armed Forces Covenant is, in short, a promise from the nation that those who have or are serving our country, and their families, will be treated fairly. It provides a mechanism through which businesses, local authorities, charities and community organisations can show their support.

At DeNove, we have not only committed to upholding the covenants key principles, including the acknowledgement that special treatment may be required, but we have also pledged to demonstrate our commitment further. We will:

  • Promote that we are an armed forces friendly organisation;
  • Support the employment of veterans, spouses and partners;
  • Offer flexibility when granting leave surrounding deployment;
  • Actively support staff members who choose are members of the Reserve forces.

The very nature of serving in the Armed Forces is turbulent, necessitating long absences and compromises. It is the least we can do to pledge to accommodate the nature of these difficulties, allow families as much time together as is possible, and make sure former service men and women are not only to transition into employment, but are given a wealth of opportunities to do so.

How to submit a monthly CCS MISO report

Watch the video here !

DeNové has a great track record for helping companies successfully win a place on Crown Commercial Service (CCS) frameworks.

Once we have helped companies onto the framework, we invariably have to spend time with them, talking them through the process of completing their monthly MISO returns.

“MISO” stands for “Management Information System Online” and is the website through which companies must report their sales data to CCS.

In the video we will talk you through the process of submitting a monthly CCS MISO report for a specific framework. Any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Happy Thanksgiving

The team at DeNove would like to wish our American customers, partners and former colleagues a very happy thanksgiving. We hope you fill up on plenty of turkey, spend some well-earned time with your loved ones and kick your feet up for a while. In our own little British rendition of the holiday, some of our team popped down to the Mayflower Pub, just a stone’s throw from our office in Waterloo. We had a couple of drinks, toasted and gave thanks ourselves.

Happy holidays!