Procurement Bill passes sensible ideas – but more needs to be done

David Wright
David Wright
DAVID Wright, Head of External Affairs at SELECT, the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland, has welcomed the passing of the Procurement Reform Bill, which aims to improve the way the public sector buys goods, works and services each year.
He said, “SELECT, which has been campaigning vigorously for several years on this vitally important issue, can be quietly pleased that many of the measures which it advocated have been incorporated into the Bill.
“The Bill is of particular relevance to the legions of Scottish SMEs, which are acknowledged as the backbone of the economy but which often previously have struggled to obtain access to the public sector tendering process. They will benefit hugely from the scrapping of onerous multiple pre-qualification.
“Another positive step is the scrapping of public sector tender charges. Perhaps best of all is that the Bill lists the specific organisations which will be covered by it. This removes the argument by some authorities that its provisions do not apply to them.
“Of course, there are some disappointments. The first, and most important, is that the threshold for the awarding of tenders is still too high. It remains at £2 million – £50,000 would be much more realistic. There are few companies in our industry which can respond to a £2 million tender.
“It would also have been encouraging to see the establishment of an Ombudsman or a regulator for the public procurement system. The establishment of a regulatory office would be a great step forward since it could take the heat out of situations and allow them to much more easily and amicably resolved.
“There has been sympathy for these proposals during the passage of the Bill and the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee listened intelligently and supportively to the arguments. The committee argues that many outstanding issues can be picked up in subsequent regulations, but the counter-argument is that, if it can happen then, why can’t it happen now?
“The Bill as it stands is essentially enabling legislation and what needs to follow as soon as possible is regulations that will govern the operation of the Bill. “Until now there has been a huge amount of money spent by the Scottish government and the rest of the Scottish public sector which has gone right over the heads of the Scottish economy and Scottish SMEs.
“The Procurement Reform Bill unleashes the potential of the multiplier effect, whereby each £1 spent by government or the public sector can create – at the most pessimistic estimate – £3 of value in the wider economy.
“Putting the above reservations aside, it has to be recognised that what has been achieved with this Bill is remarkable and it is a tribute to the politicians, parliamentary committees, organisations and companies who contributed to its realisation.”