An estimated £13.8 billion was spent in 2011/2012 by the public sector on ICT. Have you been put off trying to win a slice of this because you think the procurement process is too complex and will require you to invest too much time and cost to get the necessary security clearances without a good chance of success because the incumbent supplier will most likely win? You are not alone. The OFT Market Study has found that these are real barriers to competing which prevent suppliers from tendering. But it also found that suppliers themselves are hindering competition in this market by complex pricing and a lack of transparency. Things are changing though and the process of tendering for government and local authority ICT contracts may get easier.
In January the European Parliament voted to introduce new directives to help simplify the process, which may make tendering a simpler and more attractive process for small and medium sized suppliers. In particular, the reduction in the documentation required from bidders will mean suppliers can submit self-declarations through a standardised document. Only the winning bidder will now have to submit formal evidence. The introduction of a mandatory requirement for electronic communication in public procurement could increase accessibility to SME’s and the division of contracts into lots is also being encouraged with turnover requirements being limited to a maximum of twice the estimated value of the contract, except in justified cases. Although the government has 2 years to implement the directives, it has pledged to get the rules onto the UK statute books quickly (which means we might see them by the end of this year). So ICT suppliers not currently involved in procurement may want to start considering whether tendering could now be a viable option for them.