North West firms urged to speak out over unfair public sector contracts

Small businesses in the North West are being encouraged to name and shame public sector organisations that treat them unfairly.

A new report out today (1 July) shows that late payment and unfair or overly bureaucratic processes are the big issues for small firms bidding for or working on public sector contracts.

The government’s Mystery Shopper service has dealt with 24 complaints about organisations in the North West since it was set up in February 2011, and made recommendations for improvements in two thirds of cases.

Businesses can either email anonymously or use the new @GovMysteryShop Twitter handle to find out more about the service, and how they can report concerns about the way the public sector buys goods or services, or works with suppliers.

The Mystery Shopper team carries out daily spot checks on public sector procurement, and will also tweet case outcomes and general findings from spot checks on public sector contracts.

The government is also planning to introduce major procurement legislation to tackle the issue later in the year.

Today’s report shows that 86 per cent of the concerns raised through the Mystery Shopper scheme are from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and 79 per cent of cases have resulted in a positive outcome.

The government wants to make it easier for small businesses to access some of the £230 billion of annual public sector spending. The aim is for a quarter of central government expenditure to be spent with small firms by 2015.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

“Small businesses are our economy’s life-blood so as part of our long-term plan we are ensuring they have the chance to compete for and win Government contracts.

“Before the 2010 General Election no one even bothered to monitor what contracts they were getting but now we know that since then they are winning significantly more contracts.

“Mystery Shopper allows small businesses to raise concerns directly about procurement practices.”

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