Scottish procurement policy handbook

This handbook provides guidance on the rules and policies that apply to the procurement activities of public bodies in Scotland and highlights some key legal obligations.

8. Transparency

Public bodies have legal obligations to publish information about their procurement processes and activities. A good level of transparency can also help a public body to:

  • improve the design and delivery of contracts by encouraging feedback and increasing accessibility to information
  • promote innovation and collaboration by empowering the private sector and wider society to engage
  • build trust in public services by increasing accountability.

Procurement strategy

Public bodies in Scotland are legally obliged to:

  • publish a procurement strategy before the start of any financial year when they expect a total Regulated Procurement spend equal to or greater than £5 million (excluding VAT)
  • review an existing strategy each year and make any changes they consider appropriate
  • publish a strategy as soon as possible when there is no existing strategy and spend on contracts for its Regulated Procurements is about to reach or exceed the £5 million threshold unexpectedly.

More details about what should be included in a procurement strategy and when it should be published or reviewed are in sections 15 to 17 of the 2014 Act, the Procurement Journey’s Procurement Strategy & Annual Procurement Report page and section 2 of the statutory guidance.

A clear, comprehensive and effective procurement strategy should bring strategic focus to a public body’s procurement activities and help it achieve its wider aims and objectives in line with the National Performance Framework. It can result in greater mutual understanding with stakeholders and improved performance through increased transparency and greater consistency of approach.

Annual procurement report

Public bodies which are legally obliged to have a procurement strategy are also required to publish an annual report on their Regulated Procurement activities as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of their financial year. Requirements set out in section 18 of the 2014 Act with further information in section 2 of the statutory guidance are complemented by a template for reporting requirements issued by the Scottish Government shortly after March each year. Publication of annual procurement reports supports increased transparency.

Annual procurement reports are an opportunity for public bodies to measure their progress against their strategy and for stakeholders to hold them to account. A report can also show how well procurement is contributing to a body’s wider aims and objectives.

For those public bodies who are not legally required to create a procurement strategy or complete an annual procurement report, it is recommended as best practice to compile a procurement strategy and an annual report that are proportionate to the procurement activity of the public body.

Public Procurement Strategy for Scotland

The PPSS provides a high-level vision and direction for Scottish public procurement. Procurement Officers should familiarise themselves with the PPSS and the procurement strategy of their own public body and consider how their procurement exercises will help to deliver against both.

Annual Report on Procurement Activity in Scotland

The 2014 Act also requires Scottish Ministers to publish an annual report on procurement activity in Scotland. This report provides an overview of public procurement activity that is informed by the individual annual procurement reports published by public bodies in Scotland. A copy of the Ministers’ report must be laid in Parliament.

Contract awards

Public bodies have a number of other legal obligations to increase transparency. These are to:

  • keep and maintain a public register of Regulated Contracts (section 35 of the 2014 Act).
  • advertise Regulated Contract opportunities and publish award notices on PCS (sections 22 and 23 of the 2014 Act).
  • give reasons to organisations which have been unsuccessful in a Regulated Procurement and provide feedback on request (sections 32 and 33 of the 2014 Act, and regulation 85 of the 2015 Regulations), unless the public body deems that such information should be withheld (section 34 of the 2014 Act).

These activities can benefit public bodies more widely by encouraging suppliers to bid for contracting opportunities. Potential suppliers are put in a better position to know about opportunities and to plan for them. They also have the opportunity to learn and improve from any feedback they receive. This can increase the overall quality and value of the goods, services or works on offer.

Freedom of Information (FOI)

The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 gives people a general right to ask public bodies for information they hold about public contracts and procurement activity. Public bodies are legally obliged to answer valid FOI requests within 20 working days. Any information they give is subject to certain conditions and exceptions. This includes following the Data Protection Act 2018 when processing personal information.

Answering requests well can build trust and confidence in how a public body spends its money and its overall performance. It can also encourage greater competitiveness in the marketplace.

Guidance on handling FOI requests is available at: general guidance from the Scottish Information Commissioner.



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