“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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The PSTA (Public Service Transformation Academy) should receive an annual funding grant of £60,000.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Updated guidance should be issued regarding publication of information on Contracts Finder, including a standard minimum requirement of information.
- Redaction/Non-publication may be permitted, but a case must be presented to the Cabinet Office.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On 14 November 2018, the European Commission and UK negotiators reached an accord on the full scope of the Withdrawal Agreement and constructed an outline for the political declaration on the future of the relationship between the EU and the UK.
The coverage of the draft treaty agreement presented to parliament has been extensive; most trade journals have already provided comprehensive coverage on the most salient details for each industry.
As DeNove specialises in public sector procurement, we decided to shed some light on the meaning of the recent draft treaty and how it will impact public sector procurement.
The section of the draft treaty that addresses public sector procurement can be found on page pages 132 – 136 of the draft treaty. It is not the most accessible of documents and so we have provided a more succinct explanation of what to expect below.
First and foremost, there is to be a transition period, which will conclude on the 31st December 2020. This decision takes into account the UK’s initial request for a transition period of approximately two years. The dates also coincide with the end of the current long-term EU budget (the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020).
The Treaty and associated EU Withdrawal Agreement provides legal certainty on public procurement procedures. During the transition period, the current EU procurement regulations will prevail. This situation will then continue for any ‘in-flight’ procurements. Effectively, if a procurement has commenced (i.e. a contract notice has been issued) then it is our understanding that the procurement will continue to run in accordance with The Public Contracts Regulations (2015) and EU law. Put simply, procurements will continue to exist under the same procedural and substantive policies as the ones that were in effect at the time of their commencement.
We will write more about the likely situation post the transition period once the situation becomes clearer, but in the meantime if you have any questions regarding how this will impact your business then please feel free to give us a call.
On the 13/09/2018, the Department for Exiting the EU published a technical notice entitled ‘Accessing Public Sector Contracts if there’s No Brexit Deal’. This Department has been publishing a series of technical notices to help businesses, citizens and the wider government understand the implications of a ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019.
The possibility of a ‘no deal’ scenario in March 2019 has been a cause for great concern for many businesses. While a ‘no deal’ exit will certainly have a major impact on many businesses, the systems and processes for accessing public sector contracts will remain largely the same.
Below, we have outlined what accessing public sector contracts is likely to entail in the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome. We hope, and suspect, that this will put our customers’ minds at ease (regarding this point at least).
In the event of a ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019, the government has stated that a replacement UK-specific e-notification service will be made available. For procuring authorities, this may necessitate a steep learning curve and its introduction may be complicated.
However, for the average British supplier to the public sector, very little will change and what minor differences there are can be overcome via simple workarounds.
Currently, the majority of all English public sector contracts valued over £10,000 for Central Contracting Authorities and £25,000 for Sub Central Contracting Authorities and NHS Trusts are published on Contracts Finder. This will not change. Suppliers looking for smaller sized contracts in the UK will continue to be able to use Contracts Finder (for procurements in England), Public Contracts Scotland (for procurements in Scotland), Sell2Wales (for procurements in Wales) and eTendersNI (for procurements in Northern Ireland).
Effectively, all UK contracts will continue to be published and will be available to anybody seeking access, entirely free of charge.
If British suppliers wish to sell their services internationally, then they will continue to be able to use Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) to do so. It is possible that English contracts will no longer be published on TED. If this is the case, the simple solution for suppliers is to ensure that they are correctly registered on Contracts Finder so that they can use that platform for English tenders. For those wishing to access European tenders, we would recommend setting up a search on TED, as per usual. It is worth noting that both TED and Contracts Finder are free of charge.
In the event that we do fall out of the EU, the technical notice confirms that the UK aims to accede to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA). The UK currently participates in the GPA by virtue of its EU membership. Readers who currently use TED will notice that procurements that are applicable to the WTO rules and regulations are already signposted on all Tender Europa procurements. Each tender notice will feature a question on GPA coverage and will provide a clear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is ‘Yes’, which means that the impact of acceding to the WTO agreement will be minimal for most companies seeking to access public sector tenders.
What may change, in the long-term, concerns the publishing in English on TED. Currently, TED publishes international tender notices with a full tender notice in the language of the contracting body’s country with a briefer summary in all other official EU languages. Once we leave the EU the TED team may no longer provide an English translation.
We fully appreciate that a ‘no deal’ outcome is likely to have a substantial impact on many areas of our customers’ businesses. However, with respect to the technical notice published by the Department for Exiting the EU, we would like to assure readers that there is little cause for concern regarding accessing public sector contracts post-Brexit.
DeNové are delighted to welcome Richard Crade to our team as our new Executive Advisor.
Recently employed as Public Sector Business Development Director at NTT DATA UK, Richard is known for his impressive talent for managing teams, developing long-term client relationships and devising client-focused value propositions. He will act as an Executive Advisor for our customers, assisting them with business development and sales opportunity matters.
Richard has an excellent track record of success in the ICT industry. At Bull Information Systems, Richard won new business at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, taking that account to the largest in the UK business over several years. When Steria acquired Bull, Richard became Business Unit Director for their UK Managed Services business with 900 staff in IT infrastructure implementation and outsourcing contracts across all markets reporting to the UK CEO with full P&L responsibility for 70% of Steria’s UK revenues.
After a brief time at EDS where he was engagement lead for a £500m Managed Services bid to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, he was recruited to help IBM win more business in the public sector. Richard spent 7 years at IBM developing major opportunities, creating market strategy, coordinating multiple lines of business and coaching deal teams. As well as his initial public sector role, Richard took the global lead role on major $200m deal with a Swiss based pharmaceutical company for cloud hosting and application migration and supported Strategic Outsourcing in the Nordics to significantly improve the quality of their client propositions.
In 2013, NTT Data UK offered Richard the role of Business Development Director for the Public Sector. During his five years of employment with NTT, Richard won a number of contracts including the prestigious Core IT Services contract at HM Treasury, a multi-year managed service valued to date at ~£30m).
We are fortunate to have worked with Richard on a number of multi-million-pound tenders. Given his experience and expertise, we are certain that Richard will be an invaluable member of the DeNové team.
Corporate Software Solutions, RM1042 (expires in October 2018) and Local Authority Software Applications, RM1059 (expires in August 2018) will both be replaced by a single agreement framework – Data and Application Solutions (RM3821).
The contract notice for RM3821 was published by Crown Commercial Service on the 5th July 2018. Submission will be on the 6th August.
The framework will be established for 24 months with the option for it to be extended for a maximum of a further 24 months in 12-month stages (in years 2 + 1 + 1).
The Data and Application Solutions (DAS) framework targets the Enterprise Applications and the Information Management segment of UK Public Sector. It will establish appropriate contracting routes to meet common hardware, software and services requirements for use by UK public sector bodies; this includes Central Government Departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies and Agencies, Non-Departmental Public Bodies, Police, Emergency Services, Education Sector, NHS bodies and Local Authorities.
There are 14 lots spanning specific solutions for Enterprise Data and Applications, Local Government, Health and Social Care, Police and Emergency Service, and Education. In summary, they are:
- Lot 1a – Resource Planning and Management Solutions including Financial and Commercial
- Lot 1b – Workflow & Case Management Solutions
- Lot 1c – Data Collection, Storage & Management
- Lot 1d – Data Intelligence & Analytics
- Lot 2a – Business Applications
- Lot 2b – Environmental & Planning
- Lot 2c – Citizen Services
- Lot 3a – Enterprise Applications for Health
- Lot 3b – Health Information Management
- Lot 3c – Community Health & Social Care
- Lot 4a – Blue Light Operations
- Lot 4b – Blue Light Data & Information Management
- Lot 5a – Learning Applications & Platforms
- Lot 5b – Academic Scheduling & Management Solutions
DeNove have an exceptional track record of helping customers to secure places on Crown Commercial Service agreements (see 9 OUT OF 9) and helped Redfern, a Bradford based SME, win the £800m+ Crown Commercial Service Travel Contract three times in a row (please read the article here).
If you would like a helping hand to win a place on this framework then please call +44 (0)207 960 2801 (or out of hours on 07950 396 205).
Sellers: Getting Started
All supplier applications go through the Digital Marketplace. To apply, you must:
- Create, or log into, a supplier account on the Digital Marketplace.
- Start your G-Cloud application.
- Make the supplier declaration on the Digital Marketplace.
- agree to the framework terms
- confirm how you’ll work with government
- answer questions to establish grounds for mandatory exclusion
- answer questions to establish grounds for discretionary exclusion
- provide information about your organisation
- Add service information on the Digital Marketplace.
- 50 words to introduce your service
- 100 words to describe up to 10 service benefits (10 words per benefit), for example simplified system maintenance
- 100 words to describe up to 10 service features (10 words per feature), for example real-time reporting
- You’ll also have your own supplier page where you have 50 words to describe your organisation.
- Before you can submit a cloud service to the Digital Marketplace, you need to add a: pricing document, terms and conditions (specific to that service) document
- Wait for eligibility checks to be made on your information.
- Get the result of your application.
- Sign and return your framework agreement on the Digital Marketplace.
But the G-Cloud is a relatively new route to market, with different buying groups, buying behaviours and competition. It contains a number of novel contractual clauses and commercial obligations and even the style of registration is different to what suppliers may be used to. As such, new and existing suppliers may find it difficult to get to grips with the challenges involved and often neglect to fully think through the opportunities and challenges that the G-Cloud can present to their business.
Thus far, less than 30% of the companies listed on the G-Cloud have made sales and the statistics are even less promising for companies that have registered recently, with four in five G-Cloud 9 suppliers yet to transact a single deal. Which leads us to a very important question; why then have the top five companies on G-Cloud achieved cumulative sales of over £400m between them? What sets these companies apart? Quite simply, they provide services that customers are interested in purchasing and, perhaps less obviously, they have taken the time and effort to optimise their listings. They dovetail their G-Cloud strategy into their overall sales and marketing plan. One of the issues with G-Cloud is that it is deceptively easy to register, which perpetuates a misconception that establishing a successful listing requires little to no effort. This is not the case. But how do you create a successful listing?
We can help with that. DeNové offer end-to-end services or help with specific aspects of the procurement process. We employ a team of expert bid writers, G-Cloud Consultants and Public Sector Procurement Specialists with extensive experience. If you would like more information regarding our bid management and Cloud services, drop us a line.
We would recommend reading the G-Cloud suppliers’ guide to learn more about selling cloud technology, how to register and how to apply. The G-Cloud is expected to open for new suppliers to register their services in April. You can keep up-to-date with the latest news from the Digital Market Place team or just contact us and we will let you know what you have to do and when.