On 30 June 2022, the Cabinet Office published a new policy paper entitled “Transforming Public Procurement – our transparency ambition”.  The paper builds upon the agenda set out in the Transforming Public Procurement Green Paper, the subsequent consultations and the more recent Procurement Bill.

Split into a summary and five further parts, the paper explains how government wants to expand the type of information it reports on and the format in which it is reported, to improve the way in which the data can be used intelligently and accessed by all.

The full document is available here: Transforming Public Procurement - our transparency ambition - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Government's "Vision for procurement transparency in the UK"

The Government is seeking to increase transparency in the public procurement system by introducing new platforms to track a series of data points in the procurement lifecycle, project pipelines, the progress of procurement procedures and lifecycle spend.

Procurement transparency - what have we achieved to date?

The paper provides examples of how transparency is already built into the system, through FTS, Contracts Finder, local authority reporting requirements and central government reporting on project pipelines and KPIs.

However, with this data spread across different portals and with little information available beyond contract award stage, the Cabinet Office believes that the information is fragmented and inaccessible, so that it is difficult to get a full and accurate picture of the procurement landscape and difficult to collate and use this data to drive improvements.

Our transparency reforms

To address these issues, the paper outlines three core reforms:

  • the introduction of new procurement ‘notices’, covering the entire procurement lifecycle from planning to contract expiry;
  • a streamlined ‘Tell Us Once’ registration service for suppliers, where they can input information that will be used by all contracting authorities; and
  • a digital platform which will display this information publicly. There are also future plans to integrate commercial data analysis tools.

Benefits of the reforms

Increased visibility of tender opportunities is anticipated to mean contracting authorities will have access to a more diverse range of suppliers. Suppliers will experience a reduced administrative burden under the ‘Tell Us Once’ system and will also be able to benefit from access to market analysis. The general public and the media will be better able to monitor how taxpayers’ money is spent so that public authorities are held to account.

Where do we go from here?

Details of the transparency reforms will be finalised in secondary legislation and guidance. The Cabinet Office has begun work has begun on draft templates for the new procurement notices and eProcurement system providers will be invited to test these as they are developed. The Government has committed to providing at least six months’ notice before the new regime comes into force.

Concluding thoughts…

The effective and efficient use of data in public procurement can have benefits for bidders and authorities alike, not least by reducing spend before, during and after a procurement process takes place, With investment in the right systems, the time that it takes bidders to collate tender responses can be reduced, which will surely be welcomed by all. The data will of course become more useful over time, as the sample size grows (unless there are plans to transfer existing OJEU, Contracts Finder and FTS data into the new system). The real challenge here will be to see if there are ways that the collation of the increased data sets can be streamlined, to reduce the burden on contracting authorities so that they can efficiently provide the data that the new platform will rely upon.

Article written by Patrick Parkin and Priscilla Osoba.