Barriers to Procurement Opportunity Research

The primary aim of the ‘Barriers to Procurement’ research was to:

  1. Review current supplier pre-qualification practices used across the Welsh public sector;

  2. Consider barriers to engagement and examples of good practice;

  3. Seek to establish a clear legal view and to produce a framework of good practice, which will be adopted by the public sector in Wales.

Project  Outcomes

The Welsh public sector research shows that there is a willingness on the part of the public sector to work with SMEs, and a realisation that the engagement could be further improved. While most parts of the public sector are willing to support small and local businesses, they must be concerned with cashable savings, value for money, reducing transaction costs, developing suppliers and meeting front-line service expectations within existing procedures and regulatory frameworks. This is creating a perceived incompatibility, which cannot easily be reconciled – to maximise cost effectiveness and manage risk, while endeavoring to contribute to local economic development. However, the research shows that SMEs do not share this view.

The research with SMEs highlights a number of issues that are experienced as barriers to engagement with the public sector. These include:

  1. The complexity of the public sector procurement process;

  2. The difficulty experienced in completing PQQ documentation;

  3. A lack of transparency in the evaluation and feedback process;

  4. Use of non-contract specific risk criteria which are sometimes unduly onerous compared to the value or risk posed by the contract;

  5. Obtaining access to, and use of ‘approved lists’.

The SME sector is also concerned that the aggregation of public sector demand to create consortia contracts and framework agreements can ‘lock out’ small businesses who cannot compete in terms of scale and scope with larger organisations.

In formulating recommendations, the research teams are mindful that there is a mismatch of expectations between the SMEs and the public sector that raises difficult challenges and for which easy ‘quick’ solutions are not always possible. Consequently the Recommendations made by this report have a pragmatic emphasis, addressing what it is possible to achieve, rather than an unrealistic ‘wish list’.

Project Partners

The Welsh Government’s Value Wales division on behalf of the Business Procurement Task Force commissioned the Barriers to Procurement Opportunity Research. ICPS staff in partnership with two other Welsh Universities was responsible for conducting this national research