Government opens up contracts to small businesses

The government has launched a new system designed to simplify public sector procurement for SMEs.

The government has launched a new system designed to simplify public sector procurement for SMEs.

The government's Contracts Finder website will become the platform to find public sector contracting opportunities over £10,000 and should make the process more transparent.

Organisations will specify which contracts they are interested in and the details will be e-mailed to them free of charge.

Pre-qualification questionnaires for all central government procurements under £100,000 will also be eliminated, it said.

Prime minister David Cameron said, "I call on all those who think they can provide a great service for government to take advantage of these opportunities, to go online and start searching for contracts now."

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said, "Today marks the end of what I call the procurement oligopoly - where innovative small businesses and organisations are too often shut out of contract processes early on because of ridiculous rules and unnecessary bureaucracy. This is not only bad for those affected, it's also bad for government, as it stifles competition."

John Walker, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the move.

"The good thing is that the government is going to publish figures on the amount of contracts going to SME's so we will be able to measure its success and hold the government to account if it is not working," he said. "That type of measurement and transparency is something we'd like to see adopted more widely across the public sector."

John Higgins, director general of IT trade association Intellect, said that to drive reform and generate real benefits to SME IT suppliers, public sector buyers will need to change the way they purchase and their attitude to risk.

“Small technology businesses are engines of productivity that will drive economic growth. Our members now want to see orders being placed and the full potential of SMEs recognised,” he said.

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