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Government and CBI meet with industry to discuss improvements in contracting for public services

A roundtable discussion, co-chaired by Francis Maude and CBI Director John Cridland, discussed the government’s commercial reforms. 

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, and the Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), John Cridland, yesterday co-chaired a roundtable discussion of senior industry representatives to explore how to develop the government’s commercial reforms.

Since 2010, the government has been working to improve commercial efficiency and increase commercial capability across Whitehall. Its commercial reforms saved the taxpayer £3.8 billion in 2012 to 2013 alone.

The government is determined to build on its commercial reforms to date, and used the session to explore how it will work better with businesses to drive further improvements in public services and improved value for taxpayers. The CBI and the businesses present welcomed the messages and committed to a package of collaborative measures to deliver this over the medium term including a working group with the CBI, Government Chief Procurement Officer Bill Crothers, HM Treasury, chair of the CBI Public Services Strategy Board Ruby McGregor Smith, and senior business leaders.

A key aspect of this shift will also build on the government’s world-leading transparency record by working collaboratively with business to foster greater openness and trust between government and its suppliers. It is important to business of all sizes that government gets this right and listens to their views. Discussion through events such as yesterday’s roundtable will help ensure this.

Government and industry, with the CBI and other bodies, will continue to work together to deliver improvements in contracting. The government and the CBI have agreed to develop a joint set of principles to make outsourced public services more transparent and increase openness between government and its suppliers.

Topics discussed at yesterday’s roundtable include:

  • how government can continue to deliver savings for taxpayers
  • the importance of a vibrant and competitive market, the programme of commercial reform
  • how the government and suppliers continue to improve commercial transparency

Potential measures discussed included:

  • government’s use of open book arrangements
  • the use of a new model services contract
  • how taxpayers can get better information on outsourced public services

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

As part of our long-term economic plan, we are transforming the way government works with its suppliers. In 2012 to 2013 we saved taxpayers £3.8 billion through our procurement reforms but we want to go further. Today’s meeting highlighted that both government and the CBI are in broad agreement about what we need to do to provide more transparency. We have already made good progress on this important agenda and will work closely with industry as we go even further.

Director General of the CBI, John Cridland, said:

Public services businesses operate in an industry that demands close public scrutiny, which is why we have proposed a range of transparency measures including the online publication of contracts, open book accounting and the extension of the National Audit Office’s remit.

We will be working closely with the government to deliver on our transparency proposals and ultimately towards delivering better public services which will save the taxpayer money.

Chief Executive of Mitie Group and Chair of the CBI’s Public Services Strategy Board, Ruby McGregor Smith, said:

Every business that delivers public services needs to do more to build a trusting relationship with the public, and greater transparency is key to this. Mitie and other CBI public services businesses are committed to working with the government to support this important agenda.

Government Chief Procurement Officer, Bill Crothers, said:

We are committed to continuing to improve how we engage with bidders, run procurements, and manage contracts, as well as build strong relationships with our suppliers. The support of the CBI and industry in working with us to deliver these improvements is very positive and warmly welcomed.

Notes to editors

  1. Since 2011 it has been a requirement for all central government contracts over £10,000 to be published on Contracts Finder. To date 19,000 contracts have been published.

  2. The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) will deliver a complete commercial service for government departments, providing top industry expertise and fully managed procurement services. The new scope moves away from frameworks and towards a fully managed end to end service. With both a delivery and an advisory capability, CCS will work with departments and wider public sector organisations to help them achieve maximum value for the taxpayer from every commercial relationship.

  3. CBI published a report on 5 March 2014 that made a number of recommendations to increase the transparency of government contracts:
    • in every contract negotiation, contractors and their customers should discuss how to release information proactively and in response to public enquiries
    • all government contracts should be published online, as long as the customer is happy for this to happen; when a contract is in any way redacted, there should be a clear explanation of why this has been done and at whose request
    • in every contract negotiation, there should be a presumption in favour of open book accounting
    • the National Audit Office should be able to audit government contracts with the private sector
  4. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published a report, Contracting Out Public Services to the Private Sector, with a number of similar recommendations on 14 March 2014. The government’s formal response to the PAC will be published in due course.
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