Category Archives: EU procurement

Maude unveils Mutual Pathfinder progress report and launch of mutuals information service

By David Bicknell

The government has announced that it will provide new support to help staff-led mutual organisations set up and spin out from the public sector.

The government wants public sector staff, tax payers and service users to benefit from the increased innovation, higher productivity and better customer satisfaction mutuals often create.

To help encourage and foster the development of mutuals, the government has launched  a new £10million programme Mutual Support Programme (MSP) to provide business and professional services to groups of staff or existing mutual organisations. 

A consortium of experts in employee ownership will manage the programme to purchase HR, legal, financial, tax and business planning services to develop the most promising new mutuals.

Public sector staff who want to take control of the services they run can access a new Mutuals Information Service.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said, “The Government is getting support in place, developing a pipeline of innovative new mutual ‘spin outs’ where employees have real power. The evidence is clear – mutuals can provide better, more efficient public services.

“It’s time for politicians and public sector bosses to cut the apron strings and trust frontline staff to make decisions. They are the real experts, they know what’s important to the people who use the service and they know how things can be done better.”

The Mutuals Support Programme will also fund support to help organisations tackle common barriers and share information so that many others benefit from the work.

The Government has also published the first progress report from the Government’s Mutual Pathfinder programme which highlights barriers that staff have faced, including a tendency for contract tenders to make requirements beyond what is legally necessary such as demanding an organisation has a multi-million pound bond before taking the contract.

Maude was critical of such requirements, saying, “Too often tender processes go way beyond what’s necessary, asking for massive bonds up front and insisting that the organisations have existed for years. Iron cladding contracts bars all but a few big companies from winning them. It is a fundamental barrier to creating the vibrant, innovative and competitive public services this country needs.

“Through our Mystery Shopper exercise mutuals and other small businesses can tell us about discriminatory practice. We will intervene when problems are exposed. I do understand that Commissioners may feel stuck in the middle. Where they feel they are forced to over complicate things they can let us know through the Tell us How website and we will address the problem.”

Professor Julian Le Grand, Chair of the Mutuals Taskforce, said: “The Mutuals Taskforce has gathered evidence for why employee-led mutuals make sense in public services. The next phase of our work will be focused on making the case across the public sector and stimulating demand.”

Maude and Le Grand made the announcements while visiting the largest Pathfinder mutual, Anglian Community Enterprise, which provides over 40 community health services and a range of learning disability, GP and dental services for the population of North and North-East Essex.

MoD rules out mutual option

G-Cloud and agile briefings

By Tony Collins

On 22 November the Government Digital Service is giving a briefing for potential G-Cloud suppliers. It’ll be streamed live.

Officials say the briefing will be particularly useful to suppliers whose employees have never participated in a government tender.

At the ApplyCamp, officials will explain G-Cloud, steps in the OJEU procurement process, what information potential G-Cloud suppliers need to give, and what happens next.

The event is particularly aimed at Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service and other specialist cloud service suppliers. It will be held at Google, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9TQ – 3pm – 5pm.

Agile TeaCamp – 24 November

Between 4pm and 6pm at the Cafe Zest, House of Fraser, Victoria St, London, there will be talks on agile. Derrick Cameron, MD of software consultancy Eximium and COO of agile software house Procession will speak on “Becoming the Intelligent Buyer”.  Chris Parsons, a “freelance thinker, coder and trainer” will talk about the e-petitions project and the aims of the Agile Delivery Network.

Teacamps in November and December – Government Digital Service

UK GovIT often a barrier not enabler says Cabinet Office official

By Tony Collins

In an interview for UKauthority.com Chris Chant, Executive Director at the Cabinet Office and head of the G-Cloud programme,  debunks the claims of some that GovIT doing a great job and should remain largely untouched.

Chant says: “IT is supposed to be an enabler. Quite often in my experience in government IT it is actually a barrier to getting things done. That’s no way to use IT. It is supposed to support what we do.”

His criticism puts into context claims by some in the civil service that GovIT is an unpublicised success because of the ease and success of online re-taxing of vehicles, the payment of benefits to millions of people and the collection of taxes.

Chant has made clear his concern that some departments are locked into major IT suppliers through costly, inflexible long-term contracts that, in some cases, are being signed anew.

“In the main we are not delivering good quality IT to government and public sector workers. We are not delivering good IT solutions to the citizen …”

He calls for internal change and describes SMEs as “front and centre to what we need”.

“It is with SMEs that agility and innovation lie, and it is that market we are really encouraging… Good IT is not developed by spending a long time trying to work out a definitive answer, and then taking ages over delivering it only to discover it is not what we needed in the first place. It is about iteration. I have said all along that we do not have all the answers. We will develop as we go and take SMEs with us.”

Asked whether the public sector is ready for the cloud Chant replies: “No we are not. We are quite a way from that… We are very well positioned to operate in a world where our IT is delivered by multinationals but now it is a different world.”

He says that the cloud has security limitations. “It is difficult to see the cloud in the short term handling some of the higher security aspects of what we do but for a lot of what government does it’s about commodity products and we need to get people in who know how to handle that.”

The focus he says must always be on the citizen – assumptions should not start from a departmental or systems standpoint. “We will need to change the way we do things; we will need some new people and I suspect a lot of retraining. I think we will need a lot fewer people working on the client side of government IT…

“We are in really tough times and the idea that we can operate with [current] cost levels is wrong…”

Government clouds take shape – UKauthority.com.

The unavoidable truths about GovIT – Chris Chant.

Vested interests will try to stop GovIT changing.

What exactly is HM Revenue and Customs paying Capgemini billions for?

DWP signs new large contracts with HP, Accenture, IBM and Capgemini.

Public service mutuals and their single contracts

By David Bicknell

The Social Enterprise Summit last week carried more words from the wise about the dangers of mutual spin-outs relying on one contract.

“Mutuals need to steer clear of relying on one contract for all their business and income” – that was the warning, apparently, from delegates and speakers at the Guardian’s Social Enterprise Summit.

Comment

Maybe I’m missing something, but how many organisations in business are happy relying on one contract for all their business and income? No business – company, sole trader, never mind mutual – is going to rely on one contract. Those mutual spin-outs that have one are out there pushing for more. They know that putting all your eggs in one basket is asking for trouble. The notion that they would rely on one contract is inaccurate. They may have the one for now, because they’ve spun out, but believe me, they’re not complacently relying on it; they’re out there hunting for others. And yes, to accommodate that hunger, contracts and procurement will have to change.

SaaS or Cloud SME? – get in touch says Cabinet Office official

By Tony Collins

Chris Chant, Executive Director in the Cabinet Office working as Programme Director for the G-Cloud initiative, says in a blog post that “if you are an SME and you have a SaaS or other cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it”.

Chant says the government is changing the way it buys and uses IT. “We have trained our suppliers and ourselves to think that we need big, complex solutions to complicated problems; which has meant that all too often it’s only the big, complex suppliers that get a look in.

“We are changing all this. We are giving SMEs and ourselves a chance to work together by levelling the playing field for all IT suppliers.”

Chant says it won’t happen overnight and mistakes may be made.  “This is new territory for many departments and very few are experienced at handling this new way of working.

“I think it’s fair to say that many just can’t see how this can happen yet though
many know it must.” Government users are not so different to others.

“First off government has realised that it’s not that different. From now
on, if government wants some IT,  it needs to do what everyone else does and look  at what’s already available, not just what we can pay to have built for us and not just what we are used to doing.

“It will be uncomfortable, uncharted territory for many but it must be done. It is unacceptable for things to remain the same. So if you are a SME and you have a SaaS or other cloud service that government might use – we want to know about it.”

Chant says that government will use open standards wherever it can, and buy IT on pay-as-you-go or short term contracts.

“Some contracts may be longer but there must be a break option, in my view, at no later than 12 months.

“Of course organisations will offer lower prices for longer lock-ins but, as I’ve said before, the cost of being unable to exit will almost always outweigh the savings.”

Chant says that if you are an SME, any supplier that’s never worked with government, or an existing supplier that “gets” cloud “you are the type of people we need to work with the deliver the savings all of us need”.

Talk to us, he adds.

Chris Chant’s blog post.

Vested interests will try to stop GovIT changing.

A webinar on legal, procurement and contractual issues around public sector staff mutuals

By David Bicknell

This Thursday, 20th October, Local Government Law.tv is hosting a webinar on procurement and contracts issues arising out of the government’s encouragement of  the formation of staff mutuals by public sector employees to take over the running of services from their employers.

The course will cover the following:

•    Outline Government policy towards transfer to mutuals
•    Explain the provisions of the Community Right to Challenge under the Localism Bill
•    Outline issues which may arise under Public Contract Regulations
•    Consider  the ability of such a body to discharge a statutory function
•    Look at possible contractual issues  to be considered
•    Examine potential Governance issues which may arise

One reason it’s hard for civil servants to innovate?

By Tony Collins

James Gardner has seen for himself the institutional obstacles to innovation. . He was, in effect, chief innovator [CTO] at the Department for Work and Pensions. He now works for Spigit.

In a blog on the need for innovators to have “courageous patience” he quotes the British politician Tony Benn who used to be Minister of Technology in the Wilson government:

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”

He also quotes Warren Bennis who, he says, established leadership as a credible academic discipline:

“Innovation— any new idea—by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.”

Patience comes easily in the civil service but courage? The courage to spend a little with inventive SMEs rather than a lot with large systems integrators? Perhaps this is why it’s so hard to get central departments to innovate.

Mutuals and SMEs remain at risk of EU procurement rules despite government calls for change

By David Bicknell

A recent article on EU procurement has raised the possibility of the risk of a challenge to the government’s plans to make procurement easier for fledgling mutuals and social enterprises still trying to get their feet off the ground.

There are also implications for SMEs battling to gain a foothold in government procurement.

The piece  argues that even though the govenment is trying to change EU procurement laws, that itself is likely to take a couple of years. So, it asks, if the UK government is making a proposal around mutuals now, what will it do regarding procurement in the meantime?

In the UK government’s recent formal response to the European Commission Green paper on the modernisation of EU public procurement policy, the government said:

The UK welcomes the Green Paper on modernising public procurement, and the commitment that proposals to simplify the public procurement directives will be published at the end of 2011 or early 2012. The UK strongly agrees with the Commission’s comment on the need for streamlined and flexible procurement procedures, so that purchasers can obtain high quality goods and services, while delivering value for money for the public purse. Radical simplification is needed for the benefit of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), other suppliers and public purchasers alike.

The main priorities in the revision of EU public procurement policy should be:

To make clear that contracts could be awarded directly for a period of, for instance, three years, to employee led organisations/mutuals, to enable employees to gain experience of running public services prior to full and open competition

Reducing lengthy and burdensome procurement processes that add cost to business and barriers to market competition

Providing more flexibility for purchasers to follow best commercial practice, so that the best possible procurement outcomes can be achieved, and

Supporting measures to enhance SME access to public procurement, where such measures are non-discriminatory and are consistent with a value for money approach.

The full response is available here

The article goes on to suggest that changes should be made to simplify and harmonise ‘dynamic purchasing’ techniques such as framework purchasing agreements, which need to be made more flexible to benefit SMEs.