Crown Commercial Service vows framework rethink after confusion over partnerships

Mystery Shopper report highlights challenges of encouraging suppliers to form partnerships to bid for government contracts

By Colin Marrs

13 Apr 2016

The Crown Commercial Service is to strengthen guidance on partnering opportunities in the next iteration of its Digital Services Framework after confusion among customers and officials.

The government has sought to encourage small and medium-sized firms to form partnerships to bid for government contracts, as part of its efforts to increase the proportion of contracts going to smaller businesses.

But, according to a mystery shopper report compiled by the Cabinet Office unit, two separate suppliers recently lost out on winning tenders due to confusion on partnering rules.

GDS chief Stephen Foreshew-Cain: “fear of change” biggest barrier to digital transformation
GDS to extend Digital Services Framework to November as Digital Marketplace roll-out continues

In the first case, a supplier contacted the mystery shopper team about a call off from the framework.

The CCS report said: “The customer, the Ministry of Justice, had not considered the option of several suppliers partnering to deliver the requirement, and as a result the opportunity was too large for the supplier to bid for.”

The MoJ had not been aware that they had the ability to include a partnering option, the report said.

In the second case, a supplier failed to win a Defence Science and Technology Laboratory call off from the framework. The supplier felt it was unclear in the documentation provided that partnering was a requirement on the contract.

According to the report: “The mystery shopper team made some suggestions to improve the advice to suppliers when partnering is required so that it is clearer going forward. The CCS procurement team accepted and implemented these suggestions.”

In a third case, a supplier complained that a rival had won a contract with MoJ by offering a different price to the agreed G-Cloud rates.

“The MoJ responded quickly to the concerns raised and explained that the winning supplier had not bid lower than their G-Cloud price: rather the supplier had won the bid by providing the service for fewer hours than offered by competitors and this is why the cost was different,” the mystery shopper report said.

The report said changes would be implemented in the replacement of the government's current Digital Services framework, expected to go live later this month.

"We have agreed that, for Digital Services Three […] the customer guidance is strengthened to increase awareness and underline the benefits of partnering as a solution on this framework," the Cabinet Office document said.

Read the most recent articles written by Colin Marrs - 'No child should go unseen again': Children's commissioner Anne Longfield

Share this page