Public Services > Central Government

Cabinet Office procurement plans almost "perverse" and "draconian"

David Bicknell Published 17 April 2015

Clauses inserted into Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act may impact local authority procurements

 

Reaction has been swift to a reported move by the Cabinet Office to include two subtle but radical provisions in the government's Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act which could shake-up local government procurement.

The Act, which became law last month, is said to contain two clauses which appear to give the Cabinet Office authority to investigate and challenge local authority procurements. The majority of the Act does not affect procurement, but two clauses appear to have relevance.

The first clause says: "The Minister for the Cabinet Office or the Secretary of State may by regulations impose on a contracting authority duties in respect of the exercise of its functions relating to procurement." The implication from this is that the Cabinet Office may require local authorities to comply with its requirements and decisions on procurement.

The second says: "A Minister may investigate the exercise by a contracting authority of relevant functions relating to procurement." The implication here is that the Cabinet Office could take steps to investigate the outcome of local authority procurements.

Responding to the bill's provisions, the ICT leader at one London local authority said, "At a time when we're looking to devolve spending decisions and empower local communities the Cabinet Office have introduced provisions which could, somewhat perversely, do exactly the opposite. Not sure why these powers were introduced."

The National Outsourcing Association (NOA) has described the proposals as "almost draconian."

Kerry Hallard, chief executive of the NOA said, "Now that the government has the ability to implement measures relating to public procurement as it sees fit, it is imperative that this new power is not used callously. Procurement is a hugely diverse industry; the government needs to recognise that there are no 'one-size-fits-all' solutions before implementing any uniform requirements. Instead, it should aim to enforce best practice for each unique situation.

"These new measures are almost draconian - they allow government officials to dictate in a way that impacts on all contracting authorities. Nevertheless, the government could and should do a lot of good with its new abilities, helping smaller businesses access public sector procurement."








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