Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Public Procurement and SMEs

Has the time come for a fundamental rethink in the realms of public procurement. I remember a time when small businesses were able to 'bid' for small projects and small supply tenders by representing themselves to the 'buyer'. There was a need to provide evidence of being able to provide value for money, but since, so very often, these small bidders were also local ratepayers there was an inbuilt sense of a need to provide value for money.

It would be naive to believe that simply because someone was local that they were above a bit of 'adding value' to the end accounts, but there were also local remedies and blocks to that happening. Now though, as with so many things in this post-neo-liberal, neo-hysterical world, there now has to be so much regulation that a completely new industry is being born. Doubtless the European Union will be blamed for this shift in attitudes and for the adoption of this new paradigm supposedly protecting public funds - but the British Government are quite likely to be the greatest of sinners in my opinion.

The whole shift seems to have been accelerated by the hysteria whipped up over the scandals of the Members of Parliaments' expenses and the even more scandalous underwriting of the British arms trade that has a full culture of over-runs, over-charging aimed at the curiously complacent British Government whose complimentary culture of over-spend and under-manage has left massive holes in the UK balance sheets. The press eventually begin to wake up to these facts and with customary self-righteous indignation splash near hysterical headlines across their front pages. The reaction by Government - simple; they make it next to impossible for any small business to make a successful bid to any sort of tender. They make the paperwork impenetrable and the hurdles too great for anyone who has not got a trading record dating back to the last century - even though many are well funded and have vast experience.

The latest wheeze though, is the icing on the cake. In the past few weeks I have been inundated by adverts - usually from the Government funded Businesss Links, offering me training courses on how to cope with the paperwork (which confirms the levels that are now in place!). These courses vary in price and location but the cheapest that I have seen is about £75. I wonder how many take up this amazing offer - I must also wonder why it should even be necessary!

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