GDS: ‘We need a step change in public procurement’

Written by Sam Trendall on 17 August 2017 in News
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Government Digital Service takes part in OECD initiative to create strategic plan to reform procurement to make it more open and flexible

GDS representatives will work with peers in other countries to draw up a playbook designed to make procurement more transparent and diversify the supplier base  Credit: GDS

The Government Digital Service is drawing up plans to reshape government technology procurement to make it more transparent and agile.

Representatives of the UK government’s technology arm – alongside counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, and Chile – are working on creating “a playbook for digital and technology-procurement reform”, said Warren Smith, director of GDS’s Digital Marketplace. The intention is “to create a vibrant, diverse economy of digital and technology suppliers”.

“In order for this to happen, we need a step change in public procurement and contracting,” Smith said. “We want to remove as much friction as we can from the procurement and contracting process.”

He added: “This will attract the right suppliers. By 'right suppliers', I mean people who work in the right ways, with the right products, services and skills. It means we will deliver successful public sector programmes and projects together.”


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The Digital Marketplace chief identified several key aims of the playbook, including making data more open throughout the procurement process. The document will also set out ways to cultivate “more modular and agile approaches to contracting”, and to broaden the supplier base. 

The playbook will also focus on driving transparent and agile joint-delivery engagements, as well as examining how to share or reuse platforms and other components across various projects and engagements.

GDS is urging suppliers and civil service bodies to get involved in the process of reshaping procurement strategy and processes. To this end, the organisation is teaming up with the Crown Commercial Service to hold an event on 11 September called Digital Catapult. 

Policy, delivery, and procurement professionals from across Whitehall are encouraged to attend, as are representatives of both large and small companies engaged in supplying the public sector with technology and digital services.

“Although talking is vital, we will be defined more by the things we do than the things we say,” Smith said. “We will create change by taking small, measured steps every day. We will create chances for passionate reformers to get together, create ideas, and take action.”

Smith and his overseas peers with whom he is writing the playbook are part of a “thematic group”, that forms part of a working party of digital government officials, a forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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