On 12 December 2018, the Institute for Government (IfG), an independent think tank, published a report on the scale and nature of government procurement in the UK. The report looks at spend by central government departments, the NHS and other public sector organisations, including local authorities. 

The report is the first in a wider IfG programme of work that will look at the record, successes and failures of government contracting in the UK- with reference to other countries. It seeks to answer some central questions about government spending with the private and voluntary sector:

  • What is the scale of government procurement spending?
  • What is government buying?
  • Who supplies government?
  • How many contracts are there, of what value and length?

IfG highlights some key findings:

  • The UK’s procurement spending is not high by international standards
  • The proportion of published procurement spending going to strategic suppliers – companies that receive over £100 million in revenue per year from government contracts – has grown over the past five years, yet some of the top strategic suppliers have experienced financial difficulties
  • Some government departments are beginning to take greater control of aspects of their IT.

The report refers to the problems faced by the authors in obtaining complete or reliable data. Whilst some improvements in data availability were noted, particularly following the introduction of obligations to publish information in Contracts Finder, the overall picture is poor. Indeed, the report’s conclusions and recommendations relate primarily to measures aimed at improving government procurement data.

If you would like to know more you can access a summary and the full report from the IfG website.