Cabinet Office report on its ‘mystery shopper’ service shows SMEs complain of problems competing against big suppliers
A complaint by an SME that “impact level accreditation” used by G-Cloud
procurement is disadvantageous to small businesses is among the issues
about government purchasing raised on the Cabinet Office’s supplier
The complaint is contained in the Cabinet Office’s latest report on the
service, which was set up by the Office of Government Commerce and
extended under Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude with an invitation
to small businesses to become ‘mystery shoppers’.
According to the report, the G-Cloud team gave a detailed response to a
number of points raised by the SME. The team explained that the tender
had been broken into lots to enable small businesses to participate and
that 74% of suppliers on the G-Cloud framework are SMEs.
“They then explained the approach to data security and impact levels,”
the report says. “The ‘mystery shopper’ was grateful for the response,
but maintains his view that the use of impact level accreditation is
disadvantageous to SMEs.”
Another SME challenged the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after failing to
secure a contract. The company had been responsible for providing
biometric solutions as sub-contractor, but when the arrangement was
ended by the prime-contractor, the SME was unsuccessful in bidding for a
It asked for a “comprehensive de-brief”, which the report says was
arranged with the MoD.
The speed of the procurement process did not enable consortia of SMEs
to form to bid for a Civil Service Learning and Development contract,
according to another small business.
A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said:”‘Mystery shopper’ acts as a sounding
board for what is happening out there on the ground, not just in central
government but in the wider public sector. And that is one of the reasons
that it is so valuable.
“We actively use and share the feedback – for example, we will shortly
issue a procurement policy note across government on the lessons
learned from mystery shopper, including issues like the use of pre-
qualification questionnaires and fairer financial appraisal of suppliers.”