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Digital Strategies in Government Procurement: Procurex Wales

CarenFullertonIn anticipation of her presentation at Procurex Wales Live on 6 October at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, entitled Digital Strategy for Welsh Government, Caren Fullerton, Chief Digital Officer at the Welsh Government, spoke to BiP Solutions journalist Domhnall Macinnes about the importance of having a good digital strategy in central government procurement.

Caren Fullerton worked for the Welsh Government as an analyst for 15 years before moving on to such roles as Head of ICT for the Welsh Government’s agriculture department and Head of Corporate Services at the International Property Office, among others.

She said: “In my current role I’m responsible for providing leadership on the Welsh Government’s own digital services and digital delivery and also for some aspects of data. My team are also looking at opportunities to do things differently with respect to ICT services and unified communications.”

In April 2015, the Welsh Government published Digital First, a strategy outlining the Government’s approach to driving digital change in the public sector. Digital First aims to stimulate the provision of a variety of good-quality online services for citizens and businesses in Wales.

Mrs Fullerton explained: “A key principle underpinning Digital First is the ability to use digital to generate efficiencies and deliver value for money. Digital First is not overly prescriptive and instead provides a framework to drive improvements; we are already beginning to see some really tangible deliveries as a result of the strategy. We have also recently published an open data plan for Welsh Government, the principles of which are repeatable across the public sector. We already publish a vast amount of open data and the plan will stretch us even further. A USP for Welsh Government is that our data is bilingual and therefore valuable to a variety of people all over Wales.”

Mrs Fullerton also noted that the introduction of the National Procurement Service has had a positive impact on how suppliers and government do business all over the UK.

She continued: “I think it’s important to remember that Wales has a distinct policy agenda when it comes to digital development and digital approaches. Nevertheless, our citizens and businesses receive many of their services from Whitehall departments so I think it’s important that suppliers of services in Wales understand both the differences and our common ground in order to deliver the best quality products for us. This also helps their credibility when they look at developing themselves as suppliers to the rest of the UK.”

Mrs Fullerton touched on the vital importance of having a well thought-out digital strategy in central government procurement, benefiting both government and the supply chain.

She commented: “You want your suppliers to have done their homework up front when they are bidding for work so that the procurement process goes quickly and smoothly for them and for you. Also, these days it’s more likely that our procurements involve limited competition with a group of suppliers who themselves have already been through a framework contract procurement process.”

Mrs Fullerton briefly explored what the Welsh Government looks for in a supplier.

She said: “I’ve met suppliers that have come with really great products they’re potentially interested in trying to sell to Wales, but because they haven’t done their research on a lot of the things that matter to the public sector in Wales and the Welsh Government, they’re not really able to compete for that work. Do your research first!”

Rounding off the session, Mrs Fullerton provided a snippet from her upcoming talk at Procurex Wales and discussed the value of Meet the Buyer events.

Discussing the importance of digital change, she said: “I think the talk is mostly going to be around how digital change is about completely transforming the way in which your business operates. It is about rethinking how you deliver your service, sometimes through a very different business model. Examples from the private sector include Uber and Airbnb, where people have completely rethought how the transaction between the buyer and seller takes place and then built an IT system and new processes to deliver that. This radical rethinking also applies to how we need to transform the public sector.”

She concluded: “I think for buyers, events like Procurex are an opportunity to step back a bit and think about what it is you’re doing, while learning from the past experiences of others.”

Procurex Wales will be a hub for opportunity when private sector delegates and key public sector representatives descend onto the floor of the Motorpoint Arena for a day of networking. To gather fantastic tips about digital change from Mrs Fullerton’s speech and to seize the opportunity to gain much more, register for Procurex Wales Live 2016 today.

PIN down Prior Information Notice Updates

Prior Information Notice

The new UK Public Contract Regulations have changed the way Prior Information Notices (PINs) can be utilised by sub-central authorities. Here BiP journalist Julie Shennan talks to Principal PASS (Procurement Advice Support Service) Consultant Eddie Regan about the implications these changes will have on suppliers.

In the past, Prior Information Noticess were used to inform suppliers that a contract notice was on its way and if the contracting authority so chose, the timescale for tenders could be reduced in the Open, Restricted and Negotiated Procedures. While this functionality is maintained for for central government authorities, PINs now have a wider scope of use for sub-central authorities.

Sub-central authorities, including local councils and certain NHS Trusts, can now use a PIN:

  • As a means to notify the market of a forthcoming opportunity;
  • With the specific intent to reduce the tender timescales in the Open, Restricted and Competitive Procedure with Negotiation or
  • As a ‘Call for Competition’ which negates the need for a further Contract Notice and means that only those suppliers that respond as required will be invited to participate at PQQ in the Restricted and Competitive Procedure with Negotiation.

Commenting on the changes, BiP’s Principal PASS (Procurement Advice Support Service) Consultant Eddie Regan warned that suppliers must be vigilant to catch opportunities.

He said: “When a Prior Information Notice is used as a Call for Competition there will be no further Contract Notice published, so the PIN will begin the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire cycle. When the authority is ready to proceed with competition it will only consider those suppliers that have responded to the PIN. Only those that reconfirm their interest, when asked to do so, will receive the PQQ.”

Mr Regan further cautioned: “Suppliers must keep an eye out for PINs that act as a Call for Competition and respond to them providing the information that is requested. There is no second opportunity in this process.”

Important information in Call for Competition PINs includes:

  • The contracting authority’s contact details and links to tender documents.
  • NUTS and CPV codes.
  • A description of the goods or services sought.
  • The expected value of the goods/services sought.
  • Invitation to dialogue with the contracting authority.
  • Type of award procedure that will be followed (including collaborative models).
  • Conditions for participation, including mandatory social clauses for suppliers.
  • Description of the selection and award criteria.
  • Expression of Interest deadlines.
  • Expectations of the minimum and maximum number of companies that will be invited to tender.
  • Estimated delivery timescale of the contract.

Timescales also differ at the tender stage when Prior Information Notices have been used with the intent to reduce timescales. In the Open Proccedure, which allows 35 days for response, a PIN can cut the timescale to 15 days.

In both the Restricted and Competitive Procuedure with Negotiation, the 30 day minimum timescale can be slashed as low as 10 days.

To meet this new challenge, Mr Regan suggested suppliers prepare for a fast turn- around.

He said: “Suppliers really need to build a database of their company information, answering the common questions asked during the tender process. The new EU Public Contract Regulations make the selection criteria clear, explaining the information that can be asked of suppliers. Suppliers must use these resources to build a profile of their business.”

Online guides and training also act as vital aids in the tendering process, as Mr Regan explained.

He said: “Suppliers who are new to the marketplace can read the ‘Ultimate Guide to Winning Government Contracts’ or undertake a PASS training course to get a better understanding of the process.”

For more information on the tendering process, visit the BiP Solutions website.