The Government Digital Service has pledged to continue publishing quarterly Digital Marketplace spend data, after a lengthy gap raised questions about its commitment to making the transparency information regularly available.
The Digital Marketplace was launched in 2014, allowing Whitehall departments and agencies, and other public sector organisations, to buy off the shelf digital and cloud-based services without going through a lengthy procurement process.
It was launched with a commitment to quarterly publication of spend data, including a breakdown of how much public sector organisations had spent with small and medium-sized enterprises in a bid to increase the range of suppliers used by government.
However, until last week the transparency page appeared to have fallen by the wayside, with no new updates in over eight months.
Cloud Industry Forum, a body representing suppliers of cloud services, recently urged the Cabinet Office to do more to open up, saying it should commit to maintaining and publishing up-to-date G-Cloud sales figures “on a monthly basis”.
Writing as the latest figures were published this month, digital marketplace director Warren Smith acknowledged the delay, saying the government had “stopped publishing the spend data for the Digital Marketplace” in order to move the data to a new home on GOV.UK.
But the delay had, he said, given the team “the opportunity to look at how we use data and through looking at it, determine what’s important to our users”.
“One of the key aspects of the Government Transformation Strategy relates to data,” he wrote. ‘Specifically its ability to act ‘as the foundation upon which everything else rests’.
“As a result, we are looking at how we can improve and open up procurement and contract data.”
Smith’s post pointed to a number of initiatives which he suggested would improve the quality of spend data - currently reliant on invoices submitted by suppliers to the Crown Commercial Service - which is made public by the government.
He highlighted ongoing work to provide fresh model framework agreements and call-off contracts through the digital contracts alpha, as well as moves towards the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), which he said had the potential to shed more light on spend data.
“The OCDS enables the UK government to make data open,” Smith wrote. “It makes it transparent and machine-readable throughout the process of planning, procuring, awarding and delivering public sector contracts. This includes spend data.”
And Smith reaffirmed the government’s commitment to quarterly publication, while hinting that changes to the presentation of the transparency info could be coming down the tracks.
“Spend data helps us to identify where we can better support digital and technology suppliers,” he wrote.
“It shows the spread of supplier diversity across the UK, and where the UK taxpayer’s money is going. We use this data to design the Digital Marketplace in a way that meets our users’ needs.
“For the time being, we’ll be publishing our spend data quarterly. We will determine how we can present it in a way that’s useful for suppliers, the rest of government, and citizens.”
This month's data showed that since 2012, public sector organisations have spent £1.2bn with SMEs through the Digital Marketplace. This is out of a total spend of £2.6bn.