The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) have worked together to create the e-learning module which will help more than 4,000 central government procurers root out attempts to win contracts through anti-competitive conduct.
In 2013/14 the UK public sector spent £242 billion on procurement of goods and services. Evidence suggests that cartels – of which bid-rigging forms a part – overcharge by up to 30%, costing taxpayers millions of pounds and leading to poor service.
Bid-rigging involves competing businesses which are invited to bid in competitive tenders secretly colluding so that, contrary to appearances, they are not fully competing for the contract. Bid-rigging tends to drive up prices by removing genuine competition between bidders.
It is a serious infringement of competition law, which can lead to fines and liability to damages for the companies involved. It can also result in criminal sanctions (including possible imprisonment) for individuals.
The e-learning module is available through the CCS hub. Public procurers who do not have access to the hub can email email@example.com and request to be set up on the learning hub.
The module, which is intended to take no more than 40 minutes to complete, will help students to gain an awareness of why bid-rigging is harmful, what kinds of activities and patterns of behaviour they should watch out for, what they can do to mitigate risks and where they can go to get help if they suspect a case.
John Kirkpatrick, CMA Senior Director Research, Intelligence and Advocacy, said:
“It is vital that taxpayers’ money is spent well on projects that are of benefit to the public, rather than costs being pushed up unfairly by bid-rigging. We hope this bid-rigging e-learning package will prove to be a very useful tool for procurers in helping them spot and prevent attempts to rig procurement processes.
The CMA has a hotline which people can call if they suspect cases of bid-rigging or other anti-competitive practices, so I urge anyone with doubts to call.”