In recent times, we’ve seen remarkable progress made on public sector transparency in this country, a development which has been helped by the government’s decision last week to announce that it is launching a new website for procurement contractors looking to win public sector jobs that cost over £10,000.
The announcement is aimed at encouraging more small businesses to get involved in the procurement process, while ensuring that procurement opportunities will be available for everyone, free of charge.
This will, inevitably, make government deals more transparent than ever, and will see the end of what Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, calls ‘the procurement oligopoly’ which has seen innovative, small businesses and organisations shut out of contract processes early on, largely because of unnecessary bureaucracy.
Clearly, the government’s move is a positive one - after all, larger organisations hogging public sector contracts is not only bad for those affected, it's also bad for government, as it stifles competition, and means that they have fewer options.
Public sector procurement has long been an issue for SMEs, with a huge number struggling to bid for public sector contracts due to a lack of awareness of the opportunities that are available and the red tape surrounding the application process.
Greater transparency will make public authorities more accountable, and could be an effective tool in deficit reduction, driving out waste and double spending. However, the large scale release of data will almost certainly bring with it a number of issues - not least of which are significant privacy issues and a hefty price tag.
It also looks as though public sector organisations will need to transform the way they operate as a direct result of the government’s transparency campaign. Not only will they be asked to re-think their systems, processes and culture, but also the ways in which they share information in order to drive efficiency, improve public trust and increase engagement with public services.
The desire to see a more open, transparent government - driven initially by the expenses claim scandal, but subsequently filtered into other areas of policy - means that we’re certain to see more investment in this area in the months to come. There’s been a longstanding desire to see the government becoming more accountable in the way it tenders outsourcing contracts, and uses data.
SMEs are a key area for the NOA and with greater levels of transparency in place we will be able to measure the success of smaller organisations and hold the government accountable if the new initiative is deemed unsuccessful. It is this type of measurement and transparency that needs to be adopted more widely across the public sector. Will these plans result in greater transparency? Or is it all just smoke and mirrors?
Like all new initiatives, the proof will be in the pudding - but if you are an SME and would like to find out more about outsourcing, you can find out more at: www.noa.co.uk
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