A controversial IT tender is being investigated by the government's mystery shopper scheme after a small reseller criticised the procurement process for being unfriendly towards SMBs.
Last week, CCL's managing director Dennis Armstrong branded the government's IT procurement process "outrageous" after being presented with an Invitation To Tender (ITT) document which was 92 pages long despite being for a relatively small deal of £10,000. He claimed that reams of red tape are cutting SMBs out of government deals, which was echoed by other smaller firms.
At the time, the government admitted there is more to be done to improve procurement for SMBs but insisted it was cutting the amount of administration involved.
After seeing the CRN article, the government contacted Armstrong and asked him to take part in its mystery shopper scheme in order to investigate the tender in question.
"Having seen the online article we were concerned this was an issue that needs to be looked into, to prevent it from deterring SMEs to public sector procurement," a mystery shopper team member said in an email to Armstrong.
The scheme was set up in 2011 and aims to investigate procurement across the government and to help suppliers that have experienced poor practice. It claims that SMBs in particular have made "good use" of the scheme and that 79 per cent of the cases it investigated resulted in a positive outcome.
On top of this, as part of the project, the government carries out spot checks across public sector procurement where 20 tender documents are checked each month for any issues. The government publishes the outcome of its investigations on its website, but suppliers can remain anonymous if they wish to.
Armstrong accepted the government's offer to investigate the tender in question but remains sceptical about the outcome.
"I don't think really what they do makes much difference if you look at the answers which come back [on the website]," he said. "A lot of [the complaints] were given flannel, in my opinion, in the answers. It's me being cynical perhaps.
"But if they reduce the 92 pages to 24 then that would be a good start, but I doubt very much it will have any impact at all."
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