The Cabinet Office is exploring the possibility of building a new £5m platform to manage the application and award process for all grants given out across government.
The Government Grants Management Function (GGMF) based within the department is planning to work with “a small number of departments” to run a pilot programme for a new, centralised portal. This trial exercise will focus on grant programmes for charities, according to a newly published procurement notice.
“If successful, the pilot would pave the way for a Grants Single Applicant Portal for the whole of government,” the notice added. “This innovative model would enable a step change in UK government grant making and completely reset the way in which government, public sector bodies, charities, SMEs and citizens interact.”
The Cabinet Office indicated that, if it goes ahead with creating the unified service, a budget of up to £5m will be available to spend on a contract with the commercial partner chosen to lead construction of the online tool.
“At present, there is no single go-to place to find or apply for government grants,” it said. “It is complicated, time consuming and costly for applicants – [who] employ people to look for grant opportunities – and exposes government to significant risk of fraud, error and duplication of funding. It also leads to some organisations not being aware of grant opportunities.”
It is hoped that the pilot, which will be run from the Cabinet Office’s “second HQ” in Glasgow, will “reduce the burden, cost and speed of applying for government grants and enable government to automate pre-award due diligence”. The testing exercise is also intended to “drive awareness of the range of funding opportunities available for charities, [while], increasing competition and enabling wider distribution of funding”.
The discovery phase of the programme has already been completed, and the alpha phase is scheduled to conclude in early 2022.
A supplier is being sought to work on the delivery of the beta phase; the Cabinet Office hopes to appoint the chosen firm to a contract commencing on 24 January, and lasting until 31 March 2023.
Bids for the project are open until midnight on 26 November.
The rollout of the pilot scheme for charities comes at a time when the existence of many has been threatened by the impact of the coronavirus crisis, according to the procurement notice.
“Covid-19 has had a notable impact on the voluntary sector, with 1 in 10 charities now facing bankruptcy,” it said. “Grant funding is a vital tool to support the sector. By making grants more clearly accessible, and improving the directing of funds to the right recipients, we can help give charities the best chance of survival and recovery at this critical juncture.”
Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister title PublicTechnology, where this story first appeared