The Government has outlined plans for a new central digital platform for public sector procurement as part of its broader plans for the activity.
The Cabinet Office has published a green paper on the issue that lays out its objective to speed up and simplify procurement, including details on a new platform and service architecture.
These would include a standard set of services, such as: buyer and supplier identities accessible from other systems; the capacity to receive inputs from both sides; functions to provide data tailored to user needs; and a series of defined interfaces with other systems.
Core features would be public access to all the data online and through APIs, notices from the Find a Tender and Contracts Finder services, links to e-procurement systems, access to commercial data analysis tools, and a capacity to prepare suppliers by price and performance.
Additional functions would include registers of suppliers and commercial tools, data and spending and key performance indicators, a central register of complaints, procurement pipelines, a debarment list and a register of legal challenges.
The platform would be designed according to the Government Digital Service’s Technology Code of Practice and Service Standard. Contracting authorities would be able to purchase commercial systems from any provider as long as they meet the legal requirements on standards and interoperability.
Over time the different elements would be allowed to speak to each other and transfer data.
The existing Contracts Finder service would be retained to ensure potential suppliers can look for contract opportunities and look up details of previous contracts.
This would be accompanied by legislation requiring all contracting authorities through the commercial lifecycle of a procurement to the central platform.
Scotland and Ireland will maintain their own procurement websites.
Other key elements of the overall plan include removing over 300 regulations to create a single rulebook, allowing buyers to take account of the social benefits offered by suppliers while still considering value for money, and giving them the power to take account of the buyer’s past performance.
In addition, there are plans for a new unit to oversee public procurement.
Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew (pictured), said: “The measures outlined today will transform the current outdated system with new rules, providing flexibility to the public sector and less burden on business.
“These longstanding plans have been developed with international procurement specialists and will help unleash innovation across the country and provide a fairer system for small businesses.”
Image from UK Government via Wikimedia, Open Government Licence v3.0