Think tank calls for ‘appropriate parts’ of HMRC’s Aspire contract to be included in new Crown Marketplace

The government’s promised Crown Marketplace online procurement platform should have its remit expanded to include “appropriate parts” of the HM Revenue and Customs’ Aspire IT contract, according to a new report.

Think tank Reform calls for the measure as part of a series of improvements to the way the government buys goods and services that it claims could save up to £10 billion a year if the government conducted the majority of its procurement digitally.

Report authors Will Mosseri-Marlio and Alex Hitchcock said the success of the G-Cloud IT procurement portal showed that the cost of buying goods and services could be reduced by half, and saluted the government’s plans to create a wider digital procurement portal, Crown Marketplace.

However, in Cloud 9: The future of public procurement they argue that it is imperative for ministers to “think big” in their plans for the platform, and create it as a “single portal” for the electronic procurement of goods and services.

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Mosseri-Marlio and Hitchcock made particular reference to the Aspire contract, which the report valued at £812m a year over the past 10 years. They said all aspects of the contract other than tax submission services could be added to the Crown Marketplace proposals, in a way that would “inject vital competition”.

They added that “well documented tension” between the Government Digital Service and the Crown Commercial Service had “hampered” procurement reform to date and that it was imperative that the GDS should design the Commercial Marketplace, but for CCS to administer it. 

“GDS can then continue as a disruptive force by designing software capable of reframing the way government procures goods and services,” they said.

“CCS, the defined centre for government procurement, is best placed to increase and market the use of the Crown Marketplace across government. Placing the new platform within CCS might also enable it to better understand how to expand the goods and services on offer.”

Among other recommendations were a call for ministers to scale up pre-market engagement by moving more supplier engagement online and for the Crown Marketplace to include an Official Journal of the European Union procurement portal.

Jim Dunton

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