Spotlight on … Procurement
In our latest Spotlight on feature, we talk to Procurement Officers Helen Mora and Crawford Gardner to find out all about procurement in SCRA…
What is procurement?
The definition in the Scottish Public Finance Manual is: Public Procurement is the process of buying and managing the supply of goods, services and works from suppliers and supply chains. The procurement process begins when a need to buy something is identified and continues after the contract is awarded through effective contract management. Procurement covers so much of what we do. It can be anything from a relatively low cost contract to a major spend, such as a new IT system.
Can you give some examples of procurement?
There’s lots of examples for goods, services and works contracts as everything SCRA purchases is subject to either our own Procurement Policy or the public procurement regulations. One of the significant procurement projects we have is the Hearing room improvement programme. We were also involved in the Scottish Government procurement exercise to appoint three companies to provide interpreting, translation and transcription services for the Scottish public sector and use these services in Children’s Hearings. Another example would be facilities management to ensure all our property is managed to a high standard and various contracts to improve the Hearing room facilities.
Why is procurement so important?
We are spending public money, so it is extremely important that we spend the money efficiently and effectively. We always want to ensure we get a quality product or service and get value for money. Procurement ensures genuine and transparent competition following due diligence. It can also produce wider benefits. Procurement has a key role in supporting sustainable economic growth in Scotland and contributes to the achievement of relevant national outcomes.
How does procurement work?
It can be a complicated process, and each procurement exercise has different requirements or approaches, some of which are dependent on the value of the contract. We always consider the use of Scottish Government frameworks in the first instance, but if we’re running our own exercise, we use the Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) portal, which is where all Scottish public sector contracts are advertised.
Say we are purchasing furniture for new Hearing rooms with a value below £50k, we would invite specific companies to tender through the quick quote facility on PCS where we would upload our invitation to tender and suppliers would then upload their quotes within the deadlines given. The quotes are then accessed and evaluated by a panel and, based on a combination of price and quality, the successful contractor is appointed.
Higher value contracts are subject to the regulations and must be advertised on PCS so that any supplier can register their interest in bidding. This is a longer process which has to take account of other things like community benefits etc.
Are there lots of rules and regulations to follow?
Yes, but it is important they are in place. We follow the Scottish Public Finance Manual, the Scottish Procurement Policy Manual, Public Contracts Scotland Regulations and Procurement Reform Act. We also have our own Corporate Procurement Strategy and Policy. There’s also lots of other regulations and guidance depending on the estimated value of the contract.
What are some of the challenges of procurement?
It can be a challenge keeping up to date with changes to procurement rules and new ministerial priorities, for example climate change, fair work first criteria etc and trying to understand exactly what we are being asked to buy.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was really challenging as we had to purchase PPE kit for all our offices and Hearing centres across the country. However, everyone was trying to purchase PPE kit and equipment, plus this wasn’t something we had purchased before. There was a massive demand for these items and there was global supply chain issues to contend with as well. It was the same for equipment for Virtual Hearings, like Chromebooks so Reporters could conduct Virtual Hearings at home during lockdown. There was significant demand for technology and IT kit, so that was an added challenge. We got through it though and we ensured the service was able to continue during the pandemic.
What are the added benefits of procurement?
There’s lots of hidden benefits to procurement that people might not realise for example sustainability, which includes social, economic and environmental considerations and corporate social responsibility. We always consider whether there are opportunities to include sustainability aspects in our specifications or our evaluation of tenders, where relevant and proportionate, either by including a scored and weighted question or, as a minimum, we encourage our suppliers to offer their employees and sub-contractors a good package of Fair Work Practices (FWP) by including SCRA’s FWP statement in our tender documents and by asking if they are accredited real Living Wage employers. Corporate social responsibility is also a major consideration for us and we try to ensure that any products are ethically sourced and what impact a product or service will have on the environment. In one of our procurement exercises, the successful contractor offered an eight week work experience placement for a young person with a care or Hearings background.
Where can I find more information?
We have a section on our website where you can get more information and also read our Procurement Strategy and other documents.