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23.11.15

Open contracting could make councils more transparent and efficient by 2016

Local authorities’ procurement processes could become safer and more transparent as part of the government’s plan to introduce open contracting in the public sector, the Government Digital Service (GDS) has revealed.

Whitehall is currently looking into opening up government procurement and contract data in its third Open Government Partnership national action plan, set to be published in May 2016.

Opening up these processes could help transform public services by making it “simpler, clear and faster” for councils to buy what they need.

The move would be supported by increasing the accessibility of procurement data through Contracts Finder and having a trusted list of public sector buyers and their potential suppliers.

Warren Smith, head of strategy for the GDS digital marketplace, said: “I think there’s a real opportunity to improve the quality of data on procurement and contracting activity that takes place between public sector buyers and suppliers.

“It’s the conduct, interactions and decisions made between buyers and suppliers that are subject to legal obligations of fairness, openness, transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination of suppliers.”

He added that making data open by default will help the public know “who is doing what, why they’re doing it, when it’s being done, when it’s completed, how much it cost and when opportunities for new suppliers will open”.

Tightening oversight of contracting information will also allow central and local government to better understand its supply chain, therefore taking advantage of the opportunity to make procurement and use of public resources more efficient and reduce exposure to risks.

It is expected that opening up contracts will cut down on non-transparent and even corrupt practices associated with council contracts, such as those uncovered by the Electoral Reform Society in October, when it revealed that single-party councils could be wasting almost £3bn a year through a lack of scrutiny of their procurement processes

In other countries savings of 10-20% have been made with each tender after increasing transparency and opening up contracts.

GDS and the Crown Commercial Service are also already looking at creating simpler, clearer contracts with user-centred design.

Comments

Ljmitchell   23/11/2015 at 12:25

"It is expected that opening up contracts will cut down on corrupt practices running through council contracts" A harsh statement that tars many with a brush they do not deserve. I have been working in local government procurement for 10 years and have never sniffed the tiniest whiff of corruption. Please be mindful of those of us working hard and doing a good job and not use sensationalist statements in your journalism

Adrian Harper   01/12/2015 at 08:29

I wonder how Constructionline fits into the equation now. All I can see is an increase in the work required on the Councils side to verify all the contractors whilst Constructionline did all that for us. More work with less staff, interesting.

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