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'Incomplete' MP's procurement report fails to consider the frontline

The Guardian - Change can't happen if PASC doesn't take evidence from those dealing with procurement procedure on a daily basis.

The Commons public administration committee report on government procurement, published on 19 July, contains some sound recommendations, although few which haven't been made before.

It calls for clear public procurement strategy backed by comprehensive data. There is undoubtedly scope to reduce the time taken to award many contracts, and to further centralise procurement in some categories while still encouraging participation by SMEs and social enterprises.

However, the evidence considered by the committee, and the analysis contained in the report, is both incomplete and weighted towards the supplier perspective. It is all too easy to blame EU directives and inefficient civil servants for the UK's procurement shortcomings. It is more difficult – but ultimately more instructive – to consider how procurement strategy interacts with the realities faced by frontline procurers, and to involve them, as well as suppliers and the third sector, in developing policy.

Pasc took evidence from representatives of business, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the third sector, procurement and commercial advisors, commentators, academics, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude and senior Cabinet Office staff. It did not take evidence from those who conduct procurement procedures on a daily basis, either at individual departments or the National Procurement Service. This means a key perspective is missing from the report, and one which is essential to implement any changes to the way procurement is conducted in the UK.