The Government Procurement Service has put all planned IT frameworks "on pause" while it reviews their effectiveness.
"Our ICT framework agreements already remove excessive procurement procedures, but we want to make sure they are achieving the best savings and are easier and faster for both buyers and suppliers, including SMEs," said Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary Chloe Smith.
"We want to ensure GPS framework agreements are driving the greatest competition, and achieving a wider range of suppliers, including SMEs, in the ICT market," added Bill Crothers, the government’s chief procurement officer.
The review will be led by the GPS’ own managing director, David Shields.
Frameworks are designed to cut the cost and bureaucracy for government departments buying IT services, by pre-vetting a shortlist of suppliers. Frameworks that are already in place include the Public Sector Network, which allows government departments to buy networking services from an approved list of suppliers, and G-Cloud.
In June, the GPS tendered for a £1 billion software and development services framework, open to up to 680 suppliers.
The specific mention of SMEs in both Crothers and Shields’ statements suggests that procurement frameworks, which involve a rigorous acceptance process, may be excluding small suppliers from government contracts. Allowing more SMEs to bid for public sector IT work is a pillar of the current government’s IT strategy.
Earlier this month, Andrew Corbett, director of trade body UKITA, which represents small IT firms, told Information Age that the government’s policy of encouraging small businesses to apply for contracts has so far backfired.
"The government’s heart is in the right place, but the law of unintended consequences is at play," he said. "A lot of our members are telling us that the strategy has encouraged a lot of unsuitable people to bid for the work, and that they are undercutting the market because they haven’t got any overheads yet."