The launch of a pan-government procurement framework in spring could be delayed, following a decision by the organiser Buying Solutions to retrospectively change the criteria used to evaluate potential suppliers.
The £6bn IT Hardware and Software framework agreement is designed to pull together the buying strength of central government departments and their agencies, NHS bodies and local authorities to get bigger discounts.
However, the revised agreement, due to begin on 1 March, has run into difficulties after suppliers who failed to make it past the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage appealed against the decision.
Suppliers have complained about the addition of one question, "A4 Growth of Business", which was supposed to indicate the financial strength of suppliers.
Buying Solutions has since written to bidders, stating it has removed this question.
"We agree this question does not reflect the market strength of an individual company, nor does it accurately reflect M&A activity, profitability, market penetration or the macro economic climate,"
Under the timetable, suppliers were supposed to receive an invitation to tender (ITT) on 1 October. However, more than six weeks later, Buying Solutions is re-scoring suppliers, detracting the 30 points attached to the A4 question.
"Buying Solutions has not even issued the ITT and after that we have 40 days from which to respond, I can't see this being done on time, we think its farcical," one supplier claimed.
Another reckoned that some which were previously de-selected will be re-introduced. "The situation is ridiculous. Usually the appeals process happens following the ITT but not at the PQQ stage," the supplier said.
Sources close to the situation said delays could become more protracted as any suppliers that get cut following this second evaluation could in turn try to appeal against the ruling, given the size of the business on offer.
Buying Solutions insisted it would be able to make the marketing launch date it previously set for suppliers.
"The appeals have caused some delay to the procurement process but at this point we are not expecting this to hold up the commencement date of the framework agreement," it said.
A version of this story originally appeared on MicroScope.