Suppliers are ruling themselves out of making sales on G-Cloud by failing to disclose their pricing, according to a consultant who described it as a "poison pill".
G-Cloud expert Lindsay Smith, director of cloud consultancy The York Group, said that more than half of suppliers have "disqualified themselves" from making any sales through the framework by omitting their pricing.
When submitting documents to earn a place on the G-Cloud framework, suppliers are asked to give details of their pricing, but many fill the box with "POA", meaning price on application.
Smith said that the simple omission on a submission form can be "fatal to your chances of getting anywhere near a shortlist", as such documents are automatically rejected in the screening process.
"There are other words and expressions, all of which come down to the same thing: telling the buyer they have to contact the vendor to find out the price of the service or a component of the service," he said. "They don't, they won't, they can't. The rules state that if a call-off contract is formed, it must be for the price expressed on G-Cloud. If you don't disclose a price, the buyer can't buy."
He added that some suppliers purposefully do not disclose their pricing because they do not want competitors to see what they're charging. Others, he said, have the misconception that they are able to negotiate a price with the government.
"There are some [suppliers] who are very experienced in this who, once they've got to 10,000 or more users, they think 'if I sell this to all of Whitehall, I'd have to offer them a really juicy price'," he said. "So they put [on the form] 'just ask us and we can negotiate a price'. But you're not allowed to negotiate; you're shooting yourself in the foot."
By omitting the price, the electronic process simply disqualifies the submissions right away, added Smith.
"When you put your stuff in front of the government to show what you've got, they don't look at it," he said. "They don't see you've made a blunder and then disqualify you. There are basic machine-based tests which look at all the questions."
Mark Elkins, director of public sector IT consultant New View Market Services, said it makes little sense for suppliers not to disclose their pricing, and pointed to similar issues.
"It surprises me that people are omitting it," he said. "In the past, they put the lowest price they could [on the form], leaving customers to go through and read the service definition to identify what the true pricing is. Often, say with IaaS components, they've been priced in a headline price, but in reality you've got other components you need to add on to enable it to work.
"People have tended in the past to put the lowest possible price, and you then only find out you need to have 15,000 users, for example, to qualify. In reality, you're paying a higher price. But it is sheer madness not to put any price down. Sheer madness."
The Government Digital Service did not comment directly on the comments but said more supplier information is available on its website.
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