2019 to 2020 was the third year in which high-spending public bodies were required to submit an annual procurement report. The Scottish Government commends public bodies for continuing to report on their procurement activity. This undertaking is all the more significant when considering the huge disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck at a time when the annual reports were being prepared and published.
This report underlines the importance of public procurement in driving economic growth in Scotland, with businesses of all sizes, in all sectors and across all locations continuing to deliver the goods, works and services that the people of Scotland use every single day. Public bodies have maintained their commitment to involving SMEs, third sector organisations and supported businesses in this process as much as possible, while also being mindful of the wider impacts that procurement can deliver for our communities, helping to reduce inequalities and enable our climate and circular economy ambitions.
In the last report, the Scottish Government suggested that the quality of annual procurement reports would continue to improve as the reporting process became even further embedded into routine practice. This has indeed been the case, with more public bodies taking steps not only to evidence what they have achieved during the reporting year, but also to provide an insight into exactly how they have gone about their business.
The Scottish Government also recognises the importance of expanding its own evidence base, to ensure it has a fuller picture of the impact of Scottish public sector procurement activity. For example, in this report, new analyses have been undertaken to measure the impact of procurement spend in the third sector and across both urban and rural communities. However, those efforts will not stop there and the Scottish Government continues to take forward a programme of research work designed to take stock on what is working well, could be done better or differently. We are committed to continuing to engage with and listen to our stakeholders, helping to inform opportunities for continuous improvement.
While this report has briefly considered the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public bodies’ procurement activity and on the reporting process, the Scottish Government expects to paint a fuller picture of the impact of the pandemic in its next ministerial report, which will cover the financial year 2020 to 2021, including how we used public procurement to help support wider efforts to respond, reset, restart and recover from the pandemic.
In the meantime, to support Scotland’s sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic, it is imperative that public bodies continue to conduct their procurement activity in a way that is good for businesses and their employees, good for society, good for places, and open and connected.