Reflections from the Procurement Supply Group
The Scottish Government has long recognised that SMEs, third sector - including social enterprises and supported businesses are critical to the economic wellbeing of the country. The Public Procurement Reform Programme in particular has done much to support Scottish businesses, particularly SMEs, in competing for public contracts, improving access and simplifying processes.
The inclusive approach taken to procurement reform, supporting engagement with supply-side representatives throughout the programme, has created a number of benefits, such as an increased procurement profile with small businesses, third sector organisations and public bodies beginning to think in more detail about procurement policy.
The Scottish Government's willingness to engage the private and third sectors has been pivotal to facilitating change, improved interaction and a more holistic approach to finding solutions. Collaboration between public sector and business has supported innovative, smarter solutions to change some of the practical problems of procurement for suppliers.
The development and delivery of a range of tools, including the Procurement Journey, Public Contracts Scotland and the Procurement Hub, have had a significantly positive impact on public sector engagement with Scotland's business community. Previously, supply side groups have been instrumental in developing the Supplier Journey, sPQQ, and the Single Point of Enquiry (SpoE), and the Supplier Development Programme has provided support to over many SMEs and third sector organisations, helping many tender for the first time and win business.
Representative organisations from the supply-side have contributed directly to the design of systems, policy development and processes, and have had access to senior procurement officials and Ministers alike. Today the Procurement Supply Group (PSG) participates in on-going dialogue about public procurement policy and practices as they affect suppliers. Commenting on the procurement landscape in Scotland, the Procurement Supply Group said:
"We share good practice, provide a supplier perspective to procurement issues and discuss areas of concern as they arise, seeking to find positive solutions. This has been particularly helpful as we move into a period framed by legislative change.
"We have identified and contributed to the development of a number of priorities, such as how economic impact, community benefits and other sustainable procurement issues are considered during the development of procurement strategies - a requirement that is now
set in legislation and supported by statutory guidance.
"A wide range of suppliers and supplier representative bodies were actively involved in the development and delivery of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and the transposition of the EU Directives - supporting legislative change to improve access for SMEs and third sector organisations, standardising and streamlining procedures for both businesses and public bodies, and placing sustainable and socially responsible purchasing at the heart of the process.
"We welcome the introduction of a sustainable procurement duty requiring contracting authorities to consider how to improve economic, social and environmental well-being, and to facilitate involvement of SMEs, third sector and supported businesses. Likewise, we expect EU Procurement Directives will benefit suppliers by simplifying and reducing the length of the procurement process and supporting access to public contracts.
"There is still much to do. On reflection, the reform programme would have benefitted from a faster pace of change from some public bodies. Perhaps more could have been done to engage and encourage the small business community throughout the programme, to promote culture change around innovative practices and embed good practice across the board - and we have started to try to address these issues.
"The group has set itself a remit aligned to the strategic objectives of the Scottish Model of Procurement, identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure progress. We are currently looking at a refresh of systems and tools developed during the programme, including the Supplier Journey and the Supplier Charter, to ensure that they remain relevant and meaningful to suppliers in the new legislative framework, and we will continue to support and promote public procurement in Scotland from a supply-side perspective.
"We will continue to support the implementation of the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to successfully affect cultural change, to further develop understanding between suppliers and buyers, and seek to improve practice and capture the wider benefits of procurement and promote innovation.
"We appreciate that some areas still require attention, however, this should not detract from the substantial progress and successes of the reform programme. Not just the tangible benefits for businesses and the third sector, but also the truly collaborative approach and engagement between the public, private and third sectors, changing the way we work together to deliver procurement that improves public services for a prosperous, fairer and more sustainable Scotland."