Scotland consults on procurement reforms
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 10 August 2012
Scottish ministers have outlined plans for a major shake-up of public procurement, including extending public benefit clauses and improving access for third sector bodies and smaller firms.
Launching a consultation paper today ahead of legislation planned next year, Infrastructure and Capital Investment Secretary Alex Neil said the reforms would make Scotland’s £9bn annual public sector spend work as hard as possible for the economy. For example, contracts could require provision of apprenticeships.
‘This Bill will drive procurement reform further forward by embedding good policy, systems and practice in legislation to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits,’ Neil said.
Among the ideas the consultation paper seeks views on are whether public bodies should have a duty to make procurement ‘effective and proportionate’, and use it to promote economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
The government is also consulting on how to create better opportunities for newer and smaller businesses, and for the third sector, including a possible obligation to channel all procurement through the Public Contracts Scotland web portal. There could also be a ban on charges for issuing tender documents.
The consultation also asks whether supply chains should also be more transparent on major contracts to broaden sub-contracting opportunities, and if public bodies should be given more powers to address poor supplier performance.
Business representatives have broadly welcomed the consultation.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said her organisation had been pressing ministers for procurement reform: ‘We intend to work with our members and the business community to ensure that this legislation delivers for Scottish businesses.’
The Federation of Small Businesses said the Bill should make it a priority to use public procurement to drive sustainable, local economic growth. The FSB last month published figures showing that Scottish councils spent proportionately less with local businesses than authorities elsewhere in the UK.
Scottish policy convener Andy Willox said: ‘Many businesses cite overwhelming bureaucracy when bidding for public work, while we believe that the current moves to aggregate contracts into units for which only large multinationals can successfully bid are short-sighted.’