SMEs face moutains of paperwork for Government IT Procurement Contracts
Former HMRC CIO Phil Pavitt claimed in an interview with Computing Magazine that central government procurement teams may have been talking up the use of SMEs, but in fact they’re the biggest enemy of any SME trying to break into government IT.
This is in direct contrast with the government’s 2011 objective of doing 25% of its business with SMEs, as well as Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude’s ongoing statements of trying to create a level playing field with many larger IT companies.
“They talk about SMEs,” says Pavitt, “and then every process and decision including G-Cloud goes against it. The biggest enemy of SMEs breaking into the government supply side is the procurement teams; they don’t want it, they actively fight it, and you talk to SMEs who are trying to do business with government and it is almost as hard today as it was five years ago.”
Set up as a framework listing approved service providers, G-Cloud originally aimed to give SMEs the opportunity to advertise their services, and to cut down the time taken by the government’s tender process.
Although then it looked like SMEs would have a better chance of providing goods and services, Pavitt said, it now seems otherwise: “If you find out how much of the £15bn-£16bn they spend on IT from SMEs, and I’ll tell you – it’s tens of millions, which is an absolute joke.”
He went on to say that it took HMRC five years to get the first SME supplier to join, which involved a huge battle to get through the procurement hurdles … and very, very few others have followed that one.
“The numbers that followed them,” he continued, “are less than double-digit.”
And this, he states is because the last thing government procurement teams wanted was to do business with SMEs because of “the headache, the issue, the contract management, the overheads – they are just not geared up to do it, and most SMEs are giving up working with government”.
But it’s not just the government procurement teams suffering from headaches – contracts, we are told, can run to hundreds of pages (think of the legal fees for reviewing one of those!) and don’t seem to be subject to any kind of negotiation.
The question, then, is would those government teams be able to live up to that 25% claim with a more simplified tendering process … or are they keeping those mountains of paperwork as insurmountable as possible to keep SMEs out of the picture altogether?
This is classic Sir Humphrey talk which could bankrupt an SME bidding for Government IT work. This looks like the old saying “speaks with a forked tongue” to deliberately say one thing and mean another.