Publication Machinery of government 29 April, 2021

Radical transparency: the future of public procurement

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This Reform perspectives argues that government should embrace new technologies to enable procurement data to flow more freely around government, in order to inform smarter spending decisions. 

It is authored by Peter Smith, a former senior adviser to the UK National Audit Office and President of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.  

Government has a responsibility to be a smart buyer: to purchase the things government needs to operate more effectively at the most competitive cost, in order to get the best value for the taxpayers’ money. In times of crisis, government is challenged to spend quickly as well as effectively.  

To achieve this, transparency is critical. This doesn’t just mean the public’s right to see how their money is spent. It also means transparency within the public sector, letting timely and accurate procurement information flow freely, to help commissioners make the best-informed spending decisions possible. In both senses, transparency can make the public sector more agile, less vulnerable to mistakes, and better able to replicate best practice.  

Emerging procurement technologies will make it easier to access, share, and exploit government procurement data, relevant information from prospective suppliers, and even information from other countries and adjacent markets. However, the recent Green Paper, Transforming public procurement, doesn’t go as far as it could to embrace these changes. As Peter argues in this Reform Perspectives, there is a need, and an opportunity, for Government to be more forward thinking.