Tackling the procurement migraine: top tips for smooth procurement in the public sector

05/06/19

Procurement is a crucial part of the smooth running of our public sector – the process by which our services make sure they have the products necessary to keep our country moving. However, it can be a painful experience for public authorities due to the red tape dictated by EU and UK laws and regulations.
A typically resource heavy process, procurement requires many man-hours to research, consult and negotiate. It could also involve a number of bidders vying for contracts which can draw out the process for councils, law enforcement and educational institutes.
Compounding this, councils across the UK have institutions, workers and public facilities that are diverse in nature and operation, requiring a variety of products and services for different environments. This only makes the procurement headache worse.
Following this guide will help simplify the process.  

  • Look at the long term costs - it's sometimes tempting to go for the lowest bidder, but often with cheaper products and services there are hidden costs lurking beneath the surface. A product may retail for cheaper than another, but will the cheaper product serve as long a shelf life? Are there installation, delivery or environmental impacts that will drain the budget elsewhere? The public sector works on tight budgets and it is crucial not to damage the future budget for saving a penny or two today.
  • Equal opportunities - in the EU zone a public authority cannot discriminate against a bidder for being in another country, meaning every bid must be reviewed and researched and every rejection must be explained in writing. This provides a lot of competition and can mean a contract may attract a large number of bidders – so be prepared for a lot of attention.
  • Choose market leaders - companies with a strong reputation for delivering quality often provide high-level aftersales and technical support, make maintenance easier, and provide quick rollouts with little-to-no downtime. If you're in the market for products and services vital to your daily operations, it's important not to leave yourself short and inoperable.
  • Know the law - we've referenced the equal opportunities law, but there is much more dictating the terms of your next procurement. Whether you can use an open or negotiated procedure is defined by law, and must be adhered to. EU thresholds, abnormally low tenders and life cycle costing are just some of the areas you will need to consider ahead of starting the procurement process.
  • Understand what you need from a supplier - you will need to score bidders based on the weighted awards you assign them; innovation, sustainability and aesthetics are all reasons to value a company over another, but this is bespoke to the environment, product or service you are procuring. There is no reason to give precedence to better-looking bandages, for example, if the product quality isn't good.
  • Join a procurement framework - the easiest option to forego the red tape is to join a national procurement framework - a previously negotiated tender that a supplier has been appointed to. This eliminates the vast majority of the bureaucracy involved as contracts only need to be signed with the framework holder and there is no requirement to advertise, research and consult with other suppliers. Onboarding will normally allow for a seamless transition, quick roll out and long term price stability.
Aero Healthcare has been supplying the majority of Scotland's councils with the first aid products and life-saving devices they require through a national framework that all 32 councils are invited to join.
Through our extensive supply network, we have delivered downtime-free supply to even the most geographically challenging locations.
To learn more about procurement within the EU, read our guide "Navigating the procurement highway".


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