back to article Remember when said it would give big biz contracts to SMEs?

The Cabinet Office has lost its enthusiasm for prising open Whitehall's wallet and handing more cash to SMEs, according to a report by the Committee of Public Accounts today. Back in 2010, the government pledged to carve off 25 per cent of its £45bn spend in goods and services to small businesses. But today the committee said …

  1. Warm Braw

    Maybe the SMEs simply know better than to touch government business with a bargepole?

    The odds of getting a contract after going through an expensive tendering process more or less nullify any profit that might be made and invoices are paid with the alacrity of a parliamentary train.

    1. N2

      Agreed & the expensive acreditations required are mostly worthless.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Making it too expensive for SMEs to bid

        Agreed & the expensive acreditations required are mostly worthless.

        I don't they are universally worthless, since if you want to keep your smaller competitors with shallower pockets out, then you encourage the client to make the costs of being able to bid unaffordable to them.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: Making it too expensive for SMEs to bid

          Yep. I recently walked away from a sale when the twenty page tender doc came through -for a two day training course

          1. organiser

            Re: Making it too expensive for SMEs to bid

            I recently saw a 200 page tender document for a simple £150k piece of work. In it they required £10m professional indemnity insurance (good luck finding an insurer willing to give an SME that - £1m is standard, £2m can be had after some negotiation while £5m and beyond is next to impossible).

            The tender was eventually won by the UK arm of a foreign multinational which the buying organisation ticked off as "SME".

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tried to bring in an SME on a procurement (public sector); tech spec and pricing agreed in December, with a view to work being done during Q1 2016. It's now May, they haven't seen an order yet due to the procurement process involved, and have taken on other work instead so can no longer do our stuff in the time we require.

    The prevailing view among long-term / permie staff here is to blame the SME for not being "willing" to work with us??? Pathetic.

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Like all statistics, they are biaised on the authors viewpoint...

    Happy to hear that more work is going to SME's. But I would be highly suspect (considering the lengthy and bureaucratic procurement processes involved) that a large proportion of these smaller SME's are actually smaller subsidiary companies of existing larger IT behemoths. Yes, you may well have signed a direct contract for a discreet piece of work with SME 'A', but knowing full and well that SME 'A' is actually engaged under an existing enterprise supplier framework agreement with "approved" existing behemoth 'B'.

    Considering the requirement for all public works estimated to be over £325k'ish to be subject to a lengthy and protracted ITT process, I can understand why; but it still skews the stats.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Like all statistics, they are biaised on the authors viewpoint...

      Would it be beneficial to have a tiered approach to the process, so amounts under say £2m but over the threshold get less (but some) scrutiny?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nah, it just prove to be too hard ..

    .. to extract the current snouts from the trough.

    After all, a lot of small players means a lot more risk that dodgy plays get exposed as they have far less to lose talking out of school, and I have the impression there have been many.

    I suspect it turned out to be much harder to hide the current skeletons than originally thought, which could be an indication of their sheer volume.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Civil Service Management

    Civil Service Management continues to be a problem. We've done excellent work identifying suitable suppliers through the gCloud framework. Under the previous management chain we gained approval to proceed, even the commercial team was on board as the quote was nearly a 1/10 of the incumbant supplier and within 10% of my estimate of what it would take in reality.

    Delivery has been a success, yet IT management is still not happy that we have to do a bit of extra work to manage that supplier even though we saved a bundle in direct costs and ended up costing 2/10 of the cost taking into account internal resource costs as well.

    I just don't understand this lack of willingness to engage with very knowledgeable and eager SME's. Then again I do understand as many senior IT in the Public Sector have no technical understanding and are just managers and assurers....They've not got the required understanding to recognise a good deal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Civil Service Management

      Civil service are lazy and happy to spend other people's money. From their perspective it doesnt make sense to use an SME. Its more effort, more (perceived risk), they get no benefit from saved costs and their career benefits from a larger spend.

      Until there is recognition that paying a fortune for turgid rubbish is bad and it impacts career development and pensions, then its same old same old!

    2. organiser

      Re: Civil Service Management

      A good deal for them is not the same thing as a financially good deal. They avoid public scrutiny at all costs and if they buy from an incumbent then they have one more defence for themselves when things go sour and they end up in a hearing at the OBS, the PAC or the NAO for example.

  6. Dave 15

    SME... or UK SME?

    I have little doubt that any German, French, Italian, Russian, American or Chinese SME is getting a large chunk of UK tax payers money. I am certain that NO UK business is able to obtain a single solitary penny of UK spending. After all, which MP, government minister, councillor or civil servant would wish to visit Scunthorpe or Tyneside to check on the ability to build the MOD a new tank when they could do an all expenses paid trip to sunny Spain?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back in the day SMEs got quite a lot of government work, just not directly. One of the large consultancies would win a humongous contract, take somewhere between a third and a half to cover management/oversight/customer management (which means looking for more business), and farm the rest out to sub-contractors who charged their staff at rather less than 1000+ per day.

    Is this no longer the case ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It happens but not that much. They nowadays tend to prefer appointing Experis, Hays, Harvey Nash or Capita to get them even cheaper "temps" (eg contractors) - people who have never worked together before and with no common set of working culture. But they are cheap which is what they need because they underbid in the first place.

    2. Dave 15


      They pay experis et al a thousand a day per engineer + manager + whatever and then these companies swiftly head to India. The project then slips and more money is poured in. Finally the project fails and is cancelled with experis (or whoever) taking a payment for the fact it is cancelled. Of course the profits form this find their way out of the country nearly as fast as the employment and money.

      It is EXACTLY the same as buying a shed load of tanks from Spain, it does harm to our economy

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Bernard what happened to that juicy £1m IT project you were set to manage?

    Some over enthusiastic intern got an SME to bid for it and turned it into a £100,000 tiddler. I didn't even get invited to Wimbledon this year.

    But surely they can't have through the tendering paperwork? The equal opportunites policies. The statement on hazardous waste. The financial statements and five year trading histories supported by a sworn statement from the bank. The copies of all employees GCSE certificates to support full CRB checks.

    They got help. The intern actually replied to their emails. Can you believe it?

    But there must have been spelling mistakes, a grammatical faux pas that would disqualify the tender on the grounds of literary merit.

    They wrote it in Welsh. it's allowed for any work that is part funded by the Welsh Assembly. We simply couldn't tell if there was the odd extra w or l in the wrong place. The whole thing was a complete disaster.

    So they cocked up then?

    Chance would be a fine thing. Delivered in record timeand under budget.

    But that's terrible. What are you going to do for they next two years without a grovelling mulitnational at yor beck and call and the rounds of offsite project redfefinition workshops at expensive country hotels?

    I know. I know. Not only do I not get to hire two new project managers with a grade level increase in salary, but someone might actually notice I don't actually do anything day to day. But I have a plan. I'm redrafting the tendering process as we speak. Tenderers will have to show they have male, female and non-gendered toilet facilities. That'll get them.

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