Olympian task for contracts

For many years, smaller practices and their SME clients have wanted a slice
of the action when it came to government contracts ­ both locally and centrally.

The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform recently
published a new enterprise strategy. This included an initiative to open up the
public procurement market to all types of business, particularly SMEs. It aims
to give them the facility to search, be alerted to and view open contract
opportunities, including research and development, across the public sector.

London 2012 is a perfect example of the potential contracts that could be won
and which could have a major impact on smaller firms, especially in the capital.
Yet again the abundance of red tape, which we know SMEs already face on a daily
basis, could put many off.

After registering basic company information, a business profile must then be
completed, which involves answering a series of questions.

This profile is automatically tested against a number of minimum standards
such as health and safety. If these requirements are not met the company is
automatically referred to tailored business support to help them improve their
performance, provided by Business Link.

So far more than 2,000 businesses have automatically been referred to
Business Link highlighting the strict criteria which needs to be met, and that
it is not as simple as it sounds.

There is no doubt that the initiative is welcomed, but before embarking on
this it may be worth practices advising smaller clients that it could be a long
and painful process.

The saying, ‘If at first you don’t succeed’ should also apply, as many will
have to go though the process a few times. Whether they will be prepared to do
this, given the time constraints and red tape they already face for no
guaranteed ‘win’ at the end, is questionable. A lot will depend on how important
they view the potential business that could be at the end of the line.

We are interested in hearing your views on tendering for public sector work.

Clive Lewis, is head of SME issues at the ICAEW

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