Government departments neglect Contracts Finder procurement portal


Government departments neglect Contracts Finder procurement portal

Kathleen Hall

Kathleen Hall

Kathleen Hall is correspondent for Computer Weekly. She writes about technology issues in small to medium-sized enterprises, as well as specialising in the retail and services sectors.

Previously Kathleen worked as business reporter for Vitesse Media, covering SMEs and enterprise IT. 

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The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has published just five tenders on the government's Contracts Finder site since it was first launched in January.

Contracts Finder was set up in February for suppliers, buyers and the public to access information about government contracts and enable SMEs to have greater access to the public sector procurement process. The government intends it to be the main source of contracts worth more than £10,000.

But according to a parliamentary answer the DCMS awarded just one £24,725 contract to a small business in March, an unvalued contract in April, one £34,680 contract in May and advertised two more yet to be awarded this month.

Mark Taylor, founder of small software company Sirius, has used the site and believes it could open up procurement to SMEs. But Taylor believes the DCMS's use of the site to advertise just five contracts is low and believes more should be done to get all government departments to use the site.

"In my opinion many smaller contracts which could be awarded to small businesses are still being tendered through the traditional government procurement route which precludes SMEs, rather than through Contracts Finder," Taylor said.

Taylor says the site's user interface must also be improved. "I have applied for contracts using the site and it is functional to use, providing you are told where to look to find them. This is an early alpha product, so it's not finished but it should be made more user-friendly."

In a bid to push more tenders through Contracts Finder, the Cabinet Office recently issued guidance on the information government departments are obliged to share with the public.

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