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I was with a government procurement representative recently. She happened to mention that the reduction in procurement staff meant that they were being encouraged to place contracts that encompassed more and more capability. This policy is to get them ready for yet more post cuts. Simply put, if the number of contracts isn’t reduced the remaining staff will not be able to cope with the workload in the future. However, more capability means higher value contracts with more varied skills. So, where does this leave SMEs? Not being the tier 1 contractor is the obvious answer. This is a shame given the Government’s stance on including SMEs in the supply chain.

So, what can the Authority do to compensate for this catch-22 situation? They can’t increase posts. They can’t place many small contracts. Even frameworks require the very resources that are being cut to manage the mini competitions. Can they ensure sub-contacts are let for a certain percentage of the contract value? Can they encourage the SMEs to band together and pool resources, offset risk, etc? I would like to sagely say “Time will tell.” But, time is running out. An already stretched resource is trying extremely hard to ensure that vital services have some coverage, and they do not have the head-room to mentor industry on collaboration. SMEs will need to rely on the usual primes to share the work. Let’s hope the slim pickings do not lead to famine.

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