Improving access to public contracts
Our ability to prosper is underpinned by the ambition, growth and performance of Scotland's businesses. Whilst our competitive SMEs have an excellent track record in winning public sector contracts, we wanted to go further to help businesses, including the Third sector, get better at competing for contracts.
The development and introduction of a comprehensive, joined up suite of tools, policy support and guidance, and legislative change has helped drive procurement, simplify processes, increase access to information and opportunities. Clear benefits and gains include:
- Increased competition and supported "Best Value"
- Simple, one-stop access to contract opportunities
- Reduced administrative burden of searching for, and improved access to, public sector business opportunities
- Valuable free contract information to suppliers
- A more transparent tendering process
- Stronger communication links between buyers and suppliers
- Stimulated economic growth in Scotland
- Enabled smaller firms to bid for contracts further down the supply chain
- Standardised a best practice approach to public sector procurement
- Supported adherence to legislation, policy and procurement procedures
- Supported growth and increased capability.
The accessibility of public contracts (advertised through PCS) has increased year on year from 3,516 contracts in 2009 to 14,785 in 2015. An open and competitive public marketplace directly supports the Scottish Government's national purpose of sustainable economic growth.
Accessibility to public contracts
Source: Public Contracts Scotland
Increased interest from small business
The Scottish Small Business Survey measures the number of small businesses who have bid for public sector contracts. There has been a steady increase in the number of SMEs bidding between 2007 and 2014.
Source: Small Business Surveys
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are winning contracts
Information recorded on PCS identifies a high percentage of those winning contracts are Scottish SMEs.
|% Contracts awarded to SMEs in all locations||74||80||82||79||80||78|
|% Contracts awarded to suppliers located in Scotland||71||79||80||79||77||77|
|% Contracts awarded to SMEs located in Scotland||56||66||68||65||64||62|
Source: Public Contracts Scotland
Making it easier to bid for public sector work
The Standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (SPQQ) was created with suppliers through the Supplier Engagement Working Group (SEWG). It established a standard suite of questions, that enabled buyers to assess supplier capacity and capability, and suppliers to save and reuse their submissions.
The new EU Procurement Directives made provision for the introduction of a European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), which replaced the SPQQ allowing suppliers to adopt a self-declaration approach to selection and exclusion criteria in public contracts. It is mandatory that contracting authorities accept the ESPD, although the requirement to publish exclusively in electronic format is postponed until 2018. Whilst 2018 is the date when ESPD must be published electronically, users of the Scottish Government's PCS-Tender system continue to have the ability to save and re-use answers.
The sustainable procurement duty from the Procurement Reform (Scotland) 2014 Act now mandates contracting authorities to consider how procurements can be designed to facilitate access to small and medium enterprises, the third sector and supported businesses.
Training and Support
Through the Supplier Development Programme we have, in partnership with enterprise agencies and local authority economic development and procurement partners, provided local businesses with access to advice and training to raise awareness of the opportunities and how to win public sector contracts in Scotland and beyond.
Development of the Third Sector has also been supported through the "Just Enterprise" and "Developing Markets for Third Sector Providers" contracts delivered by a consortia led by Ready for Business LLP. Since 2009, nearly 9,000 SMEs have registered on the SDP website, with between 650 and 1500 SMEs registering each year.
The SPoE provided by the Scottish Government helps businesses which have concerns about a procurement exercise being carried out by a Scottish public body, and the Supplier Journey provides best practice guidance to support suppliers bidding for public sector contracts.
The SPoE offers an independent, impartial and confidential service, giving advice and assistance on the rules and regulations which govern the public procurement process. It can work with buying organisations to try to resolve concerns in an informal manner. Trends or areas of significant concern emerging via SPoE are highlighted for the attention of those working to raise procurement capability across Scotland.
The Scottish Government greatly values the role of Supported Businesses and is committed to helping them achieve sustainable operations by having improved access to public contracts. The Scottish Sustainable Procurement Action Plan published in 2009 stated that SG policy was for every public body to have at least one contract with a supported business.
Prior to the procurement reform programme commencing in 2006, Reserved Contracts were introduced in 2004 under the public procurement directive. This allowed public bodies to reserve contracts to supported businesses.
Increasing access for supported businesses was promoted by the introduction of a national supported business framework in 2012. It provides Scottish public bodies with an easier route to contract with supported businesses for goods and services.
The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced a number of provisions relating to supported businesses. As part of the sustainable procurement duty, contracting authorities must consider how they can facilitate access to supported businesses in their procurement activity.
Angus Warren, CEO, Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges
"The HE/FE sectors have a spirit of collaboration embedded in their DNA, and in procurement terms, collaboration was already a well-established practice as far as resources allowed. Before the McClelland report however, collaboration was generally squeezed in alongside the day jobs for procurement staff on a best endeavours basis. Procurement was for the most part, not on the agenda of senior management and so achieving depth in embedding world class procurement across institutions could often be quite challenging.
"I came late to the show as I worked in London at the time of publication but when I joined APUC in 2009, I remember thinking at the time, the whole of the UK public sector could do with taking this on-board! The McClelland report was very measured and when all involved fully understood it, it was clear it was about bringing added value through effective and well thought out collaboration but tailored to the specific needs of each sector and indeed each organisation. Our sectors have huge variety in the make-up of institutions and collaboration delivers most where the differences are understood and the solutions being delivered take account of this.
"The first 10 years since the McClelland report has, as well as already delivering significant benefits, build a very solid foundation for future benefits realisation and continuous organic development, continuing to maximise collaboration while tailoring procurement activity to ensure that it is delivered in a manner to optimise each organisations' stakeholders' needs."
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