9 Working with suppliers
9.1 Suppliers' Charter
The Review of Public Procurement in Scotland recognised that "The existence of a base of high quality and cost competitive suppliers is the optimum environment in which to achieve Best Value in procurement expenditure".
A Suppliers' Charter 17 has been established for Scottish contracting authorities. It defines the generic standards which suppliers can expect from contracting authorities and the standards which will in turn be expected of them as suppliers to the public sector.
The Charter sets out a number of commitments for contracting authorities, including:
- adequate publicity 18 of contract opportunities;
- use of a core qualification questionnaire; and
- provision of tender debriefing to any supplier that requests it.
It also commits contracting authorities to ongoing dialogue with businesses to achieve change.
The Charter commits business organisations to encourage their members to adhere to the Charter, recognise the legislative framework in which public procurement operates and make effective use of their skills and resources in bidding competitively for and providing specified quality/delivery on public sector goods, services and works.
9.2 Standards expected of suppliers
Suppliers to the public sector are expected to maintain high standards of business and professional conduct e.g. in relation to legislative and policy requirements on the environment, equality issues, health and safety, employment and taxation. Bidders should generally be required to disclose any recent adverse court or tribunal rulings regarding their business/professional conduct. Where a bidder has failed to comply with relevant legal obligations, consideration should be given to whether it should be excluded from competition on grounds of its unsuitability. In deciding whether or not a bidder should be excluded, account should be taken of the seriousness of the ruling/offence, whether or not the ruling/offence indicates that the bidder is of poor reputation and whether or not the bidder has taken appropriate action to remedy the problem which was the subject of the ruling 19 .
9.3 Gifts and hospitality
It is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 for those employed by contracting authorities in their official capacity corruptly to accept any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward for doing, or refraining from doing, anything or showing favour or disfavour to any person.
Under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916, any money, gift or consideration received from a person or organisation holding or seeking to obtain a contract will be deemed by the courts to have been received corruptly unless proved to the contrary.
Organisations should ensure that they have guidance in place 20 , which is specific to the needs of those engaged in the commissioning of tenders/contracts, on the propriety of accepting gifts or hospitality.
9.4 Involving suppliers
Suppliers from all sectors are represented on the Public Procurement Advisory Group ( PPAG). 21 The purpose of the group is to provide the framework for an ongoing dialogue, about, and influence upon, public procurement practices as they affect suppliers.
9.5 Ethical standards
In all dealings with suppliers and potential suppliers, contracting authorities must preserve the highest standards of honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity. In particular, those engaged in commissioning of tenders/contracts must:
- be fair, efficient, firm and courteous;
- maintain the highest possible standard of integrity in all business relationships;
- acquire and maintain current technical knowledge;
- achieve appropriate professional standards in the management of contracts;
- foster appropriate standards of professional competence amongst those for whom they are responsible;
- comply with the law, guidance on professional practice and contractual obligations;
- declare any personal interest which may affect or be seen by others to affect impartiality;
- respect the confidentiality of information received in the course of duty and ensure that information given in the course of duty is honest and clear; and
- respond promptly, courteously and efficiently to suggestions or enquiries, including handling Freedom of Information obligations according to organisational policies.
9.6 Handling complaints
Contracting authorities should have in place a formal process to ensure that any complaints from suppliers are dealt with in a professional, objective and timely manner. Effective analysis and handling of complaints will benefit both suppliers and contracting authorities, in terms of future business and practices. When dealing with a complex complaint, contracting authorities may wish to seek advice from the relevant Centre of Expertise and/or SPD.
9.7 Single Point of Enquiry
A Single Point of Enquiry ( SPoE) has been established, as recommended by the Review of Public Procurement in Scotland, to which suppliers can address concerns about public procurement practices. The SPoE will work with the Centres of Expertise and contracting authorities to review issues raised by suppliers and to work towards improvements in public procurement practices in Scotland.
In all cases, suppliers should seek to resolve issues with the relevant contracting authority before submitting an enquiry to the SPoE.
Suppliers can submit an enquiry to the SPoE by completing the online form on the SPD website:
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