Public Sector Procurement in Scotland
You know we love talking Public Sector Procurement. But we realised we haven’t spent much time talking about how it works in Scotland. With the recent successes of our Scottish clients on G-Cloud, it’s time we did.
So, is Public Sector Procurement Scotland a completely different ball game? In short, not quite. However, there are a few key differences worth noting if you are looking to dip your toe in Scottish waters (brrr) and make a splash in this new market. We have answered a few of the basic questions and uncovered a few handy hints to get you started.
How does Public Sector Procurement in Scotland work?
Just like the rest of the UK, Public Sector Procurement in Scotland takes place within the EU Procurement Directives and respects the five key principles of Equal Treatment, Transparency, Proportionality, Mutual Recognition and Confidentiality. All Public Contracts, regardless of their value, must stick to these principles. This encourages competition during the tendering process and prohibits public sector bodies from simply basing their choice on the size or location of the supplier. So up till now there’s nothing too different…
Public Sector Procurement Scotland is governed by the following directives and regulations:
- EU Treaty Obligations.
- EC Procurement Directives.
- The Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
- The Utilities Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
Public Sector procurement must always be transparent and fair. And you may be wondering who decides what’s fair? Well, the Scottish Procurement Directorate (SPD) does. This body provides a national legislative framework for public procurement to improve Scotland’s economic growth and ensure the best Value for Money is met.
To make access to the market easier and ensure that value for money is met, several measures have been put in place:
- The Suppliers Charter: a joint statement between Public Sector and SMEs, third sector bodies and supported businesses.
- Public Contracts Scotland: a portal where suppliers can find Public Sector tendering opportunities in Scotland.
- PQQ: Scotland has developed a Core or standard pre-qualification questionnaire which aims to reduce bureaucracy. This ensures that any suitably qualified business can tender for business with the Public Sector.
- Single Point of Enquiry: This service helps suppliers who are having issues or concerns with a procurement exercise being carried out by Scottish public sector organisations. It works in a similar way to the UK Governments Mystery Shopper service.
Who is responsible for buying across the Public Sector in Scotland?
Luckily, it’s pretty simple, you might even say it’s as easy as A, B, C! (We’ve even included a nice graphic to help you out). To improve Public Sector procurement practices, The Public Procurement Reform Programme organised the procurement of goods and services within 4 different categories (A, B, C1, C).
As the nifty graphic shows:
- At a national procurement level, Category A, Procurement Scotland is responsible for collaborative contracts available to all public bodies and commodities such as IT hardware, Telecommunications and office supplies.
- Category B is responsible for Collaborative Contracts which are available to public bodies within a specific sector: Scottish Procurement, Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC), Scotland Excel and NHS National Procurement.
- Category C1 are local or regional collaborations between public bodies.
- Within Category C are local contracts for use by individual public bodies.
Where to find Scottish Contract Opportunities
Helpfully, all Scottish Public Sector contracts are advertised on Public Contracts Scotland (PCS). PCS is an online portal funded and operated by the Scottish Government: it’s a searchable database of Public Sector tender opportunities, accessible to everybody. It also offers online procurement tips and advice. Let’s say that it’s the Scottish version of Contracts Finder, but way better…
Definitely worth a visit. Especially when you think that this is also where:
- Public sector organisations post OJEU contract notices.
- Suppliers are invited to submit quotations.
- All contract award notices are published.
All these things in a single website. Aren’t you the lucky ones… but how does the registration process work? What’s the catch?
No catch just 3 simple steps:
- Set up a supplier profile providing information related to your business.
- List the commodities your organisation provides.
- Register for email alerts.
What happens next? Public Sector Buyers can use Quick Note – an online ‘request for quotation’ facility – to get competitive quotes for low-risk and -value purchases from the registered suppliers. Afterwards, the selected suppliers will be able to access the opportunity and submit their quote.
What do people actually think about PCS?
We asked few of our Scottish clients about their experience of PCS and Public Sector Procurement Scotland in general. They said that they actually found it easier to work with PCS than TED or Contracts Finder in England. One of the reasons they found PCS a breath of fresh air is that it became much more user-friendly, especially after government funding has gone into expanding and developing the portal. Now suppliers can even bid on Lots via their mobiles. It’s procurement on the go!
What does PCS have that TED or Contracts Finder doesn’t? With PCS, you:
- Get an alert if there’s a contract that matches your requirements
- Can bid and receive a simple yes or no…
- The buyer publishes the Award amount… Done!
How can SMEs compete with larger companies?
We often see the larger value contracts to go to the big names (though less and less thanks to G-Cloud!) However, don’t let this discourage you. Contract notices can be a great source of information for smaller companies. They can give a clue as to who to approach for partnering or subcontracting opportunities.
Similar to the mindset in England, Scottish Government has changed and are now more SME focused. They are starting to embrace new technology and have make it easier to sell to government by supporting events that introduce public sector to smaller tech companies.
One of these events is Procurex Scotland, undoubtedly Scotland’s largest procurement event. Procurex is designed to help both buyers and suppliers to meet the public sector procurement challenges. This event brings together both public and private organisations. This year it takes place on the 25th October and is the most important day of the year for Scottish Public Procurement. By attending the event, you’ll get to know about “Scottish Government Procurement Strategy – January 2017 – March 2019” and also have the opportunity to:
- Network with more than 1000 Scottish public sector buyers.
- Learn from representatives of “Scottish Government and Centres of Expertise Pavilion” about becoming a supplier to the public sector.
- Visit the “Supplier Training Zone” to learn about the do’s and don’ts of tendering and all the changes to procurement procedures.
- Visit the “Scottish Government eCommerce Zone” to get to know about technologies behind Scottish public procurement.
It looks like an unmissable opportunity for those looking to sell to the Scottish Public Sector, so get yourself booked in.
In the meantime, high on the successes of our current Scottish clients we are here to help you make the most of public sector procurement in the UK. Just drop us an email or give us a call on 0330 124 4224.