123 official complaints about Government contracts last year
The UK Government has received 123 complaints from businesses over the tendering of public procurement contracts in the past year*.
The research comes as Government procurement practices come under extra scrutiny following questions being raised over how PPE contracts have been awarded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government has been criticised by the National Audit Office, which found that procuring PPE for the NHS in chaotic and inflated market condition cost the Treasury £10bn more than it would have done a year earlier. Less than 10% of the PPE ordered by the NHS had been delivered by the end of July, while 195 million items ordered were unusable.
Disputes over how these contracts were awarded is likely to drive a number of complaints to the Government in the coming year. According to the NAO report, £10.5bn in COVID-related contracts were awarded without any competition. Businesses who may have been more capable of fulfilling these contracts might choose to file official complaints in an attempt to help them win future procurement deals.
When a complaint is made about a procurement contract it can help a business to find out further detail on why a rival’s bid was successful, giving them a potential advantage in securing future deals.
In previous years, errors in Brexit-related contract awards, including a £13.8m contract by the Department for Transport to a ferry company that did not own any ferries, resulted in the Crown Commercial Service advising greater transparency from the Government on how contracts are awarded.
"Winning a major public contract can be transformative for a business, so some will be considering legal action over contracts they feel they were unfairly denied a chance to bid for."
COVID PPE contracts have brought all the old problems with Government procurement back to the fore again, following a real effort to improve things prior to the pandemic.
Complaints surrounding Government procurement are still common and will likely remain so if transparency around the awarding of contracts does not see far-reaching improvement.
UK procurement rules will remain largely unchanged following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, meaning businesses will still be able to make complaints over contract awards.
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For more information on this update please contact James Geary.
* Year end March 31 2020. Source: Cabinet Office