Want to know who won a public contract? The chances are that you never will.

Want to know who won a public contract? The chances are that you never will.

Caleb Roenigk_Flickr

The public never gets to know who won more than 50% of tenders published by Local Government and the NHS according to data on Contracts Finder, the Government’s tender portal. Across the whole of Government 43% of tenders do not have a contract award even though publishing contract award data is a legal requirement.1

Using data taken from Contracts Finder, we have counted up all the tenders that had deadlines more than a year ago and yet are still missing contract award notices. However, because the public sector often uses frameworks, contracts that can be used multiple times by different buyers, the number of contract awards should actually exceed the number of tenders. This means that there are far more contract awards missing, we just can’t know how many.

Central government had the best response rate, publishing 81% of its contract awards. Local government and the NHS fared less well, publishing 48% and 43% of their contract awards respectively. The worst performers were procurement organisations.* These bodies conduct procurement on behalf of multiple public sector buyers, often within a region or a specific sector. Despite being procurement specialists and publishing a high volume of tenders, on average 7 tenders per month, these organisations only published 60% of contract awards.


Buyer type

Tenders

Missing contracts

Percent missing

Procurement organisations

2,778

1,654

59.5%

NHS

3,021

1,720

56.9%

Local Government

17,408

9,127

52.4%

Emergency Services

405

117

28.9%

Higher Education

5,847

1,678

28.7%

Other

7,996

1,661

20.8%

Central Government

8,368

1,625

19.4%


Of the buyers who published over 20 tenders, 11 have published no contract awards and only 11 have published a contract award for every tender.


Buyers with no contract awards:


Buyer

Tenders

BRITISH LIBRARY

26

DE MONTFORT UNIVERSITY

34

EAST MIDLANDS STRATEGIC COMMERCIAL UNIT

36

EPSOM AND ST HELIER UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS TRUST

50

KING'S COLLEGE LONDON

33

SAINT HELENA GOVERNMENT

26

SALISBURY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

32

SOUTH OXFORDSHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL

21

STAFFORDSHIRE AND LANCASHIRE COMMISSIONING SUPPORT UNIT

36

UNIVERSITY OF DERBY

89

UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER

46


Buyers with an award for every tender:


Buyer

Tenders

CABINET OFFICE

47

DEPARTMENT FOR CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

55

GOVERNMENT DIGITAL SERVICE

83

HIGHWAYS ENGLAND

62

INDEPENDENT POLICE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION

34

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OFFICE

85

LONDON FIRE BRIGADE

38

SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE

25

SHEFFIELD HALLAM UNIVERSITY

58

STEVENAGE BOROUGH COUNCIL

25

UK HYDROGRAPHIC OFFICE

31


Buyers with the highest number of missing contract awards:


Buyer

Contracts Missing

SANDWELL METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL

458

SOUTH EAST SHARED SERVICES

430

CROWN COMMERCIAL SERVICE

344

UK SHARED BUSINESS SERVICES LTD

343

DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL

320

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

298

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

285

NHS ARDEN AND GREATER EAST MIDLANDS COMMISSIONING SUPPORT UNIT

285

CUMBRIA COUNTY COUNCIL

241

NHS SHARED BUSINESS SERVICES

227



16 buyers published more than 500 tenders. These buyers published 80% of their contract awards in total, but two of them were missing 70% of their contract award notices:


Buyer type

Tenders

Missing contracts

Percent missing

SANDWELL METROPOLITAN BOROUGH COUNCIL

651

458

70.4%

SOUTH EAST SHARED SERVICES

612

430

70.3%

UK SHARED BUSINESS SERVICES LTD

500

246

49.2%

CUMBRIA COUNTY COUNCIL

515

241

46.8%

DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

845

275

32.5%

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

1,166

215

18.4%

CROWN COMMERCIAL SERVICE

2,058

344

16.7%

LEEDS CITY COUNCIL

543

68

12.5%

NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

615

45

7.3%

HOMES AND COMMUNITIES AGENCY

517

28

5.4%

HIGHWAYS AGENCY

781

36

4.6%

UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM

880

39

4.4%

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON

826

25

3.0%

UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST OF ENGLAND

668

19

2.8%

DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT

533

13

2.4%

FCO SERVICES

503

4

0.8%



Conclusions

There is a significant shortfall in the publishing of contract awards and the failure to publish is widespread. Publishing rates vary significantly across different types of buying organisation, which indicates that 100% publishing could be attained, were buyers sufficiently motivated to publish this data. Clearly the legal mandate to publish is insufficient to improve publishing rates.

Perhaps it is time to consider introducing a law similar to the one adopted in Slovakia where a contract is invalid unless openly published within three months of being signed.2 This law has had a positive impact on corruption, saving public money while improving the business climate. The data has been used by citizens, journalists and public servants, thereby  improving transparency.

 


 

Methodology

This analysis was conducted on the 1st and 2nd of November, 2017. We gather tender and contract data from the Contracts Finder API daily. To begin this analysis, we counted the  tenders published on Contracts Finder and contract awards linked to the original tender on Contracts Finder, 365 days after the original tender was published, covering the period from March 2014 to October 2016. We linked this to public sector entities and added buyer types to all these entities that had published over 20 tenders in the period analysed.


 


 


*Procurement Organisations

EAST MIDLANDS STRATEGIC COMMERCIAL UNIT

EASTERN SHIRES PROCUREMENT ORGANISATION

LOCAL GOVERNMENT SHARED SERVICES

NHS SHARED BUSINESS SERVICES

NORTH EAST PROCUREMENT ORGANISATION

NORTH OF ENGLAND COMMERCIAL PROCUREMENT COLLABORATIVE

SOUTH EAST SHARED SERVICES

SOUTH OF ENGLAND PROCUREMENT SERVICES

UK SHARED BUSINESS SERVICES LTD

WELLAND PROCUREMENT UNIT

WEST YORKSHIRE COMBINED AUTHORITY

YORKSHIRE PROCUREMENT ORGANISATION




1 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0716-legal-requirement-to-publish-on-contracts-finder
2 http://odimpact.org/case-open-contracting-and-procurement-in-slovakia.html




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