Making Procurement Better After Brexit

As the prospect of Brexit becomes reality it is only natural for us to wonder what impact this is likely to have on aspects of the work that we do for public sector clients, particularly in relation to strategic/complex procurements – and also on how we and other SMEs go about winning our advisory work in the future.

Recently I completed a survey by a law firm researching views on what changes could should be made to public procurement regulations, once the UK government has brought them into its control via the Great Repeal Bill.  It got me thinking about whether it was the legislation that was out of date, or the way in which the public sector buys.

Some of the biggest drivers of value – requirement to advertise widely, adopt a suitable procurement route that balances speed and the ability to shape a solution, provide clear evaluation criteria, conduct a transparent process…..etc. are already enabled by legislation.  Generally speaking, these processes are not unduly bureaucratic or prescriptive.  I can’t recall the regulations ever preventing any of our clients from being able to describe what they want and then select the best supplier.  So, I think the existing legislative framework is broadly fine which, by implication, means that attention should be focused on pursuing some national initiatives that could improve how public sector organisations engage with suppliers and each other to make procurement more efficient.

Were I king for a day, there are a couple of things that I would like to see happen, both of which are geared to making life easier for suppliers, procurement teams and client officers.


1 – Set up a national procurement portal (that actually works)

Apart from the firms who have earned money from selling the same thing several times, who else has benefited from the proliferation of Procurement Portals across the public sector?  Want to sell to a NHS trust, a local authority, a college, the police – if it’s not big enough to be lodged with the Official Journal then an opportunity will be lodged on a local or regional portal, it may use standard classifications of the type of supply or service (e.g CPV codes) or it may not; it almost certainly will require a unique login/password; it will make the user follow its own design for completing and uploading bids.  All of this makes things unnecessarily complicated and time consuming for suppliers.

You simply wouldn’t end up with this situation by choice.  Everything about it is sub-optimal.  Some suppliers will miss opportunities.  Those that do see them have to deal with different front-ends and uploading protocols if they want to get access to the tender documents and submit their bids.  They have to tweak or reinvent pre-qualification material each time depending on the requirements of the individual portals.

We – and I’m sure many other firms interested in selling to the public sector – receive a regular email listing current tenders (filtered to our relevant areas of interest) from Contracts Finder, which is the closest thing to a national repository of UK tender opportunities.  But quite often these opportunities are only flagged for the first time a week or so after being posted or appearing on their local portals.  For many suppliers this may leave too little time to get quality bids in.

A post-Brexit government could streamline the system by mandating the use of a single point of advertising and managing tenders e.g. Contracts Finder for all tenders above a de-minimis threshold, but also providing a single consistent portal and connecting it to other records (e.g. Companies House) to allow for automatic financial standing calculations and compliance checks to be undertaken and stored.  Clients would then be able to access these records, allowing them to focus their prequalification investigations on issues specific to the procurement such as technical capability, capacity etc.  This would cut out a large amount of repetitive pre-qualification work for both client and suppliers, maximise visibility of tender opportunities and speed up time to appointment.


2 – Promote collaborative procurement opportunities nationally

We recently worked on a major collaborative procurement, between 5 different councils, of a range of local authority services that resulted in contracted savings for our clients of around 3 to 4 times the amount that they could have achieved individually as well as other benefits from aggregation such as greater service resilience. Interestingly, the clients were not by and large geographical neighbours – although they did come to the decision to procure collectively because of existing relationships at officer level.  If these contacts had not already been in place it is likely that each client would have come to an independent position on the strategy for procurement, not knowing that there was an opportunity to drive additional value through collaboration.

Many public sector organisations now publish a database of their major contracts, with data on values, start/finish dates etc.  Aggregating these into a single, national database would provide not just visibility to the market but an ability for client organisations thinking of running a procurement to find similarly-intentioned partners and create more joint procurements where it is in their interests to do so.  As highlighted above, this need not be defined by location, but through preliminary activity to test whether the potential for additional value is there and there is suitable appetite to work together.

From the suppliers’ perspective, such an approach would provide much more visibility of their marketplace and allow them to identify opportunities earlier.


Neither of these initiatives would require material change to the existing regulations.  There would no doubt be issues in the detail that would need to be addressed.  But I do hope that as well as all of the governmental brainpower fixated on defining the legislative umbrella after Brexit, there is some sensible thinking taking place around how a national approach to procurement can deliver greater value for our British pounds (shillings and pence).

For more information

Get in touch

If you would like more information please call or email us

07768 554527