Thought for the day:Cat fights?

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.S-CAT and G-CAT catalogues (generically X-CAT)...

Outsourcing and communications expert Martyn Hart looks at a hot issue of the day.S-CAT and G-CAT catalogues (generically X-CAT) are supposed to be the Government's method of reducing procurement times and risk. The principle is that by pre-selecting approved suppliers from a catalogue, government departments can place business straight from the catalogues without the usual long-winded procurement process laid down by the European Commission.

For a supplier to get on the catalogue it has to go through a tough process to satisfy the Government procurement policy. They assess you and assure your competence in the categories you've put yourselves forward for. Is your quality good enough? How have other customers rated you?

But it's not all good. According to delegates at the recent Government Computing conference, the X-CAT system is failing.

First, suppliers are finding it hard work to get on X-CAT. Second, Government procurement departments circumvent the European procurement process and simply invite six or more competitors off X-CAT to tender.

And it gets worse. There are certain organisations on X-CAT that are just agencies who put forward any "client" company that they think could win the bid. These businesses often have no track record and haven't been through the X-CAT process.

More often than not, the companies within the consortia end up winning business. Worse still, one delegate told me that often these "consortia" companies were actually the worst in their speciality and probably would never stand up to a real X-CAT examination.

My other gripe with the X-CAT Government procurement process is that SMEs have almost no chance of getting onto the catalogues. With no guarantee that they will win any contracts, such businesses perceive the cost of going through the process as being too high.

Finally, (a familiar theme I'm afraid), at least four people told me that their company had initiated new ideas within a department only to see them become the specification for an X-CAT bid which they subsequently lost!

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Martyn Hart is chairman of the National Outsourcing Association and practice director at Mantix, a consultancy that delivers value from complex programmes.

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