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Government contracts complaints rose 48% last year

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Government contracts complaints rose 48% last year

Government contracts complaints rose 48% last year

Ferry and rail contracts from the Department of Transport put procurement process in the spotlight

The number of official complaints received by the UK Government from businesses over the tendering of public procurement contracts rose by 48% in 2018 to 235, up from 159 the previous year*.

Our research follows some high-profile cases which have placed the Government’s procurement processes under intense scrutiny. The Department for Transport was criticised over a £13.8m contract which it gave to a ferry company despite the company not owning any ferries. The contract was eventually cancelled.

Stagecoach, the UK rail operator, has also launched legal action against the Department for Transport after it was barred from bidding for three rail franchises.

The increase in complaints is likely to be due to a combination of a slowing UK economy and restrained public spending**. These factors have resulted in public sector contracts becoming more sought after by businesses, making them more likely to take legal action.

Businesses also use the complaints system to gain a competitive advantage over rivals. Submitting a complaint about a contract can help a business find out about a rival’s bid, and it is also possible to ask for further detail on why a rival’s bid was successful. While this may not help a business win the contract they had complained about, it is likely that this will help them for future bids.

James Geary, Principal at EMW, says: “Complaints over Government contracts have surged as suppliers fight tooth and nail to win work. Reduced opportunities in the private sector and the weak economy mean that securing a Government contract is increasingly competitive. Businesses have reacted by contesting public contracts far more regularly, in the hope that these contests result in a review or even a complete retender of the procurement process.”

“Lodging a complaint can also be an extremely useful fact-finding mission for a supplier. Not only can a complaint result in a retendering, they can also help businesses obtain crucial information that can dramatically improve their future bids. Recent controversies have put the spotlight on how the Government hands out its contracts, with many businesses now questioning how the procurement process is run.”

For more information on this article, please contact James Geary or you can give us a call on 0345 070 6000. 

235 complaints were lodged with the CCS in 2018, an increase of 48% on 2017

* Data from the Crown Commercial Service, which is responsible for handling complaints received by the Government that are related to contract procurement.

** Public sector expenditure as a percentage of GDP fell to 34.1% in 2018/19, compared to 37.3% five years previously in 2013/14