Government updates public sector contract details
By Richard Johnstone | 29 November 2012
The Cabinet Office has published up-to-date information on £84bn worth of government contracts planned over the next five years.
The online ‘procurement pipeline’, updated yesterday a year on from the original, covers 18 sectors where the government intends to buy services. The largest is construction, where deals worth £30.3bn are planned, followed by clinical and medical life sciences (£8.3bn) and professional services (£7.3bn).
Professional services is also one of four sectors where contract plans have been revealed for the first time.
In total, the government expects to sign £14bn worth of deals in these new areas. These include financial services, where one of the proposed contracts is to maintain a register of all owners of Treasury-issued bonds. Waste management and fire services are the other new sectors.
The government began publishing details of its procurement plans last year as part of its industrial strategy, and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the update would help businesses plan for bids.
Under previous governments, a lack of certainty about Whitehall’s buying needs prevented many businesses from bidding competitively for contracts, he said. Ministers were now ‘determined to make it easier for firms of all sizes to compete for and win government business so we can leverage our spending on suppliers to help the economy grow’.
He added: ‘By providing industry with pipelines showing future opportunities, businesses will have the confidence and time to invest in relevant skills, labour and capabilities to win these contracts.’
However ‘there is still more to do’ in procurement reforms, he said, and future updates would be more comprehensive and cover more sectors, he added. ‘I want to encourage all businesses, including small- and medium-sized firms to look at these opportunities and plan for the future.’
Business group the CBI welcomed the update. Matthew Fell, director for competitive markets, said the published information was ‘heading in the right direction’ but still covered only ‘a small proportion’ of the £230bn worth of goods and services purchased annually from the private sector.
He added: ‘It needs to accelerate and broaden this programme to link with its industrial strategy and support future growth.
‘A recent CBI survey of businesses gave the government procurement reform agenda 8 out of 10 for policy reform and 7 out of 10 for pipelines, but only 5 out of 10 for overall implementation. The government urgently needs to increase the level of commercial skills in the public sector to deal with the increasing complexity of contracts.’