Procurement activity: annual report overview 2020 to 2021

An overview of public procurement activity in Scotland for 2020 to 2021, based on information contained in individual annual procurement reports prepared by public bodies and other relevant information.

5. Conclusion

In providing an overview of procurement activity during the 2020 to 2021 reporting year, this report demonstrates that public bodies continued to maximise the value that public procurement can generate, by using it to achieve a wide variety of economic, social and environmental benefits for businesses and communities across Scotland.

During the reporting year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought huge disruption to our everyday lives and to our usual ways of working. This report highlights the many ways in which the pandemic impacted on public sector procurement activity, while also profiling some of the steps that public bodies took to mitigate this impact and to protect themselves and their suppliers and wider supply chains.

Despite the huge uncertainty created by the outbreak, the evidence shows that the Scottish public sector has, generally continued to make progress in relation to public procurement objectives since the previous report was published. In view of the challenges and disruption that public bodies faced during the 2020 to 2021 reporting year, it is encouraging that many were able to successfully carry out – and report on – their procurement activity. The public sector continued to work with businesses and organisations across Scotland through contracting opportunities, while communities of all kinds continued to benefit from the spend resulting from such opportunities.

These successes do not detract from the fact that there are areas where the Scottish Government and the wider public sector could be doing better. In particular, the proportion of spend in Scotland with SMEs dropped notably during the year. While the evidence suggests that this was at least partly connected to the circumstances of the pandemic and also to wider changes in the profile of organisations in receipt of spend, the public sector must strive to ensure that SME access to public contracts remains a high priority.

Similarly, real progress must also be made in enabling more third sector organisations and supported businesses to engage with, and benefit from, public contracting opportunities. Third sector organisations are well-placed to help the Scottish public sector to deliver economic growth in a manner that is good for businesses and their employees, good for places and communities, good for society, and open and connected – and more work needs to be done to facilitate their involvement in public sector contracts.

We must also do more to promote innovation in our procurement processes, to help support sustainable and inclusive growth. Although budgetary challenges have clearly limited progress in this area, it is important to learn from the public bodies that have embedded innovative thinking into their everyday work – and to support other bodies to do the same.

The Scottish Government’s response to the two key pieces of research conducted during the reporting year, as outlined in Chapter Three, show that the Scottish Government is listening to the wider public sector and to its suppliers. The organisation will continue to expand the evidence base around the effectiveness and impact of public procurement policies and practices across Scotland. By striving to improve our understanding of where the public sector is doing well and where it can do better, public bodies will become better-equipped to drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the post-pandemic era.

This report has reflected on the importance of sustainability in public procurement, and the steps that public bodies took to embed sustainability into everyday ways of working during the year. More recently, this commitment to using sustainable procurement to deliver positive outcomes for the people of Scotland was reflected in the Scottish Government’s seven public procurement priorities for 2021 to 2024.

To realise our ambition of using public procurement to facilitate our economic recovery, the Scottish Government recently initiated a new programme of work known as ‘A Plan for the Future’. The aim is to strengthen the role of procurement as an enabler to economic recovery and move Scottish public procurement to the next level of maturity. In our next report, which will focus on the 2021 to 2022 reporting period, we will demonstrate how public bodies continued to use procurement as a means of driving economic growth by engaging with a range of businesses and organisations as we continued to emerge from the pandemic.



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