Excellent Private and Public Procurement can assist in achieving multiple benefits

Carefully written procurement policies can enable local authorities to achieve multiple goals such as achieving efficiency savings and supporting local businesses, according to Professor Dermot Cahill, Director of the Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies and Head of Bangor University’s Law School.

So vital is procurement to all manner of businesses and organizations from the SME through public bodies to multi-national organizations, that the Law School, who have a major international research project on the subject, are running a week-long series of events on the topic.

According to Prof Cahill: "In the current economic climate, public bodies are using public procurement as a way to achieve efficiencies, as naturally, they are anxious to cut costs in the light of diminished income.  However, this can often defeat other objectives.  For example, county councils have units who are actively, and rightly, seeking to promote economic development on the one hand, while on the other hand, the councils have to procure goods and services for better value. This may often mean that they are structuring contracts in such a way that depletes their own rate-paying base, and so, they shoot themselves in the foot unwittingly.  There is a recession on. What we are trying to do at the Conference is to see how we can bring about the perfect circle of both achieving value, promoting innovation, by structuring contracts in a legally compliant fashion, which will allow sustainable supplier communities to continue to exist and have a reason to offer innovative goods and services to the public sector."

Professor Cahill, observed, "It is vital that both purchasers and suppliers to the public sector have a keen understanding of how public procurement practices can both promote and stifle innovation in British industry. For example, many organisations have "green" corporate values, but are pursuing contrary objectives in their purchasing practices.  This can have an adverse impact on innovative British or Irish companies who want to offer environmentally friendly goods and services to the public sector.  Similar considerations can also arise in the context of Public Procurement Law, where often suppliers think they have rights, when in fact, they have not. On the other hand, sometimes public purchasers attempt to defend public procurement practices that are not SME friendly by claiming that European Union Procurement Law precludes them from acting in a more SME friendly fashion, when often, the opposite is the case. Even Whitehall is waking-up and taking its own medicine to use the words of Francis Maude (Cabinet Minister and Paymaster General)”.

In the same talk Maude continued his speech by confirming that Whitehall have “Started to level the playing field for SMEs but we can go much further. [SMEs] told us that contract size was one of the greatest impediments to winning business, and we agree. Government contracts don’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, so big and complicated”.

"Given that we are one of the leading centres for Public Procurement Law in the United Kingdom" commented Professor Cahill "we are also delighted to be able to offer, as part of the programme during Procurement Week, a series of specialist seminars on Public Procurement and Judicial Review, and Public Procurement and Transparency.  Leading solicitors and barristers from Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as legal experts from other countries such as Spain and Portugal, will be attending, to give the benefit of their advice and experience in interpreting European Union Procurement Laws.

One company that is already involved with the Bangor ‘Winning in Tendering’ team is Gelli Civil Engineering who has had the benefit of Bangor’s Tender Review Service. Gelli Civil Engineering Director, Rebecca Budski said: “We were initially wary of letting an outside organization review tenders we had previously submitted to a local council, but the results have been worthwhile. The process helped us to identify our weaknesses and build on the positive criticism that we have received in preparation for our next tender. This will benefit us and also will benefit the council".

Rebecca Budski added that the company would be attending the Procurement Week events.

At Procurement Week (March 27th to 30th next at Bangor University) the Law School's Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies (ICPS) and the ‘Winning In Tendering’ team are assembling a range of national and international experts who will deliver a series of mostly free seminars in a number of key public procurement areas for the benefit of both public procurers and SMEs aiming to sell goods and services to the public sector.  Procurement Week is held between 27- 30 March inclusive.

These include: Procurement Training for Suppliers (27th March), Private Sector Supply Chain Strategies: Opportunities and Partnerships (28th March), Cutting Edge Procurement: Innovation, Ideas and Actions (29th March) and, Public Procurement: International & Regional Perspectives (30th March).  

Publication date: 21 March 2012