The cases have been published as part of the Cabinet Office's SME Mystery Shopper scheme, which allows the Cabinet Office to investigate public sector procurement issues on behalf of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and recommend improvements to the procurement process. The results of these investigations are then published online to promote best practice across the whole public sector.
Examples of investigations in London are:
- NHS North West London Hospitals:
An SME working on a contract for NHS North West London hospitals which raised concerns about payment made purely on a “contingency fee” basis. This meant payment would take longer than usual and would be made on an erratic basis. As a small business they would not have the resources to wait several months, so contacted Mystery Shopper. The Cabinet Office intervened and the NHS trust has since reviewed its approach and plans to introduce a new fee system where contingency fees play a smaller role.
- Metropolitan Police Authority:
A mystery shopper contacted the Cabinet Office about a specification for parts for boats. The police had specified Volvo parts, but have now adjusted this to allow for equivalents.
Minister for the Cabinet Officer, Francis Maude, said: “SMEs are crucial to the future of this country and to building a more diverse and rigorous economy. Timely access to cash is critical for these businesses. It is already a condition of every Government contract that sub-contractors are paid within 30 days and we want to know where money is not passed down the supply chain, whatever the reason.
“Mystery Shopper lets us find out about procurement problems and the cases published today show that our actions are having real results for businesses out there.”
Nationally there are 67 cases published today covering a wide range of procurement issues. In total, the service has now received 238 cases, of which 193 have been closed with 81% of them resulting in a positive outcome – for example a current or planned procurement was changed, or the supplier gained a better understanding of the procurement process. The majority of cases received so far relate to wider public sector procurement.
Mystery Shopper uses the feedback from SMEs to promote the best practice across the whole public sector. SMEs are encouraged to use the service wherever they feel that there is an issue that disadvantages smaller players or best practice is not being followed.
Notes to editors
1. SMEs can access the supplier feedback service at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/form/mystery-shopper-feedback-form
2. PQQs for tenders under £100,000 have already been abolished by all but two departments (remaining only in the most complex or sensitive areas) and contracts are published on the searchable Contracts Finder website.
Cabinet Office Press Office 70 Whitehall LONDON SW1A 2AS
Tel: 0207 276 0393
Out of hours telephone 07699 113300 and ask for pager number 721338
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE CABINET OFFICE BY THE REGIONAL NEWS NETWORK