New digital platform will allow public bodies to ‘see how the parts of the jigsaw connect together’, according to CCS boss
A new centralised digital platform containing data on government suppliers aims to give buyers much better insight into companies’ past performance in delivering public-sector contracts.
One of the measures the Cabinet Office proposed in its Transforming Public Procurement green paper in late 2020 was the creation of a single, unified digital supplier-registration platform through which commercial data will be collected. At the moment, suppliers have to provide details of their accounts, liabilities and other data for every Crown Commercial Service agreement on which they feature.
“Worse, everyone that then runs a procurement off one of [our] agreements will be asked for exactly the same information. Think of the burden that creates,” said CCS chief executive Simon Tse.
The new platform would require suppliers to provide that data only once to qualify for any public sector procurement exercise. The idea has proved popular: 80% of the hundreds of responses to a consultation on the reforms last year approved.
As well as cutting down bureaucracy, the centralised model will give buyers – from government agencies to local authorities and NHS trusts – access to information on suppliers’ past performance on things like net zero or social value.
“I think there will be more and more requirement to put that information in an intelligent way into a platform that then gives transparency,” Tse said, in an exclusive interview with PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World. “Up to now, we’ve not been able to take past performance into consideration. But moving forward, it’s one of the key planks within the new public procurement policy statement… so you can start to see how the parts of the jigsaw connect together.”
In December 2021 in its response to the submissions made to the consultation process, the government committed to creating the platform.
“It will be centrally funded, and it is our intention that the services would be free for all users,” the response said. “We recognise the challenge involved in integrating a range of different systems into an overarching platform and understand that this is likely to require some additional development work on the part of providers. We will work closely with users and other stakeholders whilst building the system to ensure that the needs of the user community are met.
It added: “We recognise that different elements of the digital platform should be subject to different rights of access. Publicly available information on the central platform would be published under the Open Government Licence and would not require registration to view or download, whilst other information on the central platform may require registration to enter or access data. For example, supplier responses to the supplier registration service will require registration to ensure supplier information is protected.”
At the moment, CCS and the Cabinet Office are looking at how to “operationalise” that past-performance information, Tse said. CCS will then educate organisations on how to implement the policy changes.