Government IT procurement might escape the scrutiny of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), after an official report placed computer suppliers low on the list of concerns for the competition watchdog.
But suppliers' representative Intellect has insisted that competition remains a concern, and is continuing to put pressure on the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the government procurement body, to deal with the problems faced by small suppliers in particular.
The OFT report, Assessing the Impact of Public Sector Procurement on Competition, cited IT as a sector "for further investigation" and said there is "a reasonable indication of competition problems" as a result of the government's "failure to exercise countervailing buyer power".
But in a list that advised the OFT where it should direct its limited investigative resources, IT was placed ninth, after sectors including sewage and sanitation, the arms trade, shipbuilding and pharmaceuticals.
Report author Dan Maldoom, director at economic consultancy DotEcon, said: "We were somewhat less convinced about the scope for this problem in the IT sector than in other sectors.
"The OFT looks for the sectors where the government has a massive impact because it's the only buyer. We thought [IT] is an area where the OFT doesn't need to get overly excited."
Nick Kalispeis, director of public-sector software and services at Intellect, said the vast number of IT suppliers queuing up to supply the public sector reduces the likelihood of a competition problem.
But he said: "If you look more closely, there are issues about the length of the procurement process, the cost, and the ability SMEs have to access the market."
An OFT representative said it will assess the report and decide whether to take action next year.
"The remit was to identify where procurement could impact competition. The report didn't look at the procurement practices, just at the nature of the sector," the representative said.
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