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Sunday, 9 July 2017

A bonfire of pointless Euro tenders

Any firm bidding for contracts of more than petty value with the public sector will have faced the daunting hurdles of Euro Procurement. The public sector has made a religion out of compliance with all the tedious, bureaucratic, costly, time-wasting, inefficient foolishness required by Brussels in inviting Romanian horse-knackers, Sicilian mafioso and Lithuanian bordello chains to bid on equal terms with UK firms for local, domestic contracts such as building a new school or making dinners for its pupils.  

Tussell (£) reports that in 2016 the UK public sector advertised 17,000 tenders with a value of £301bn that were open to EU firms. The MoD was the largest Euro Advertiser with 700 contracts worth £13bn. Construction and IT are probably the biggest categories of work, but even suppliers of civil service paper clips must bid against Bulgarian wire-benders; 9,000 supply contracts in 2016 worth some £38bn.

Ho, you may huff. At least all that contract money wasted on Kermits and Huns will come back to John Bull. But actually no. The whole lengthy, complicated, expensive, time consuming process that employs the time of thousands of public sector workers is utterly and absolutely pointless. A Parliamentary briefing paper (6029,2015) finds that just 1.3% of public contracts go to European firms - and that UK firms win just 0.8% of other EU public contracts. We'd save billions just by abolishing the inane process - billions more than the public sector saves by compulsory Euro procurement. 

The public sector must be free to decide where best value in procurement lays.* Whether this is the EU, the US, the far East or Grimsby. Without Compulsion. And a bonfire of The 2015 Public Contracts Regulations. I dare say no-one would actually notice if we binned the thing right away and redeployed all those redundant public sector workers into wiping old people's bottoms or something useful. 

*Yes, this is a Suffolkism. For the rest of you read 'lies' 


Anonymous said...

Not only about money either...

We have recently seen the new trains on the "Thameslink" line which runs from Brighton to Luton via the city of London. These are medium distance trains that also do commuter service.

We had some perfectly adequate trains that were past their best, so it was decided to follow the procedures and get some new trains.

The British trainmaker was eschewed in preference to some tiny German outfit called Seamans or something... And so now there is no choice here.

The new trains have just started to appear and they are genuinely some of the least comfortable vehicles. It is better to stand than to sit, since the plastic seat has only a piece of nylon cloth covering it and sweating becomes the order of the day. But apart from that, wherever one sits, there is an assurance that someone will stick their bum in your face, since most of the seats face those that are standing and there are many standing places.

Meanwhile the punters try to time their journeys to ensure that they still get one of the old trains, and the trainmaker has shut its doors for good.


Anonymous said...

An associated restrictive practice in the UK public sector (including the privatised utilities) is the increasing use of third parties to pre-qualify bidders before they can even tender for new business. A typical example of this is the use of service providers like Achilles (, which require companies to pay up-front before they are allowed to bid. Strangely enough, the various contracts rarely get awarded to newly registered bidders, so the pre-qualification process has simply entrenched the hegemony of the existing supplier base and become a nice little earner for the "service" provider.

Sackerson said...

Excellent point, thank you!

Anonymous said...

The EU bidding process adds several weeks to the MOD procurment process, it isn't possible to just make a phone call or click online when something is needed, as noted a request for offers of tender is made to the EU members first.

Michael said...


...remembers wistfully the old C Block at the PSA/DOE in Croydon, where you could make an appointment to see a bloke on the top floor, get the order, then wander down the stairs through each floor, 'bumping into' more enquiries, and eventually getting out with an armful of work...

Apart from the dried up sarnies and rotten beer in the awful pub in George Street, it wasn't a bad day's work on the whole!

OJEUs? Pain in the arse...

Anonymous said...

So many examples of the OJEU costing the U.K. taxpayer money, it would take too long to tell.
The other curse is the need for multiple tenders when the customer already knows who they will be giving the work to. I've wasted months of work providing answers to meaningless " clarifications " just to satisfy the procurement weenies when the contract had already been decided before the tendering process had even started. How do I know this? Because we were the winners and had already started the work!

John M said...

A very interesting point, especially in a Political climate where almost any attempt to question the levels of public spending are rebuffed by all the major parties using what I refer to as the "human shield" of NHS and Social Care spending.

Domo said...

If only!
Ive seen at least half a dozen instances of the wrong supplier winning.

So the government organisation was forced to buy something it didnt want or need, or indeed couldn't use, and then retender two years on.