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NCVO collaborates with Serco

NCVO is working with Serco to develop standards for the relationship between prime and sub-contractors delivering public contracts.

James Allen, head of public services and partnerships at NCVO, revealed the collaboration today at a Public Administration Select Committee hearing on public procurement.

The hearing, which saw Allen give evidence to MPs along with Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK and Mike Cherry, policy chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, focused on the difficulty for smaller organisations to win public sector contracts.

Holbrook warned that public sector contracts were being up-scaled to a point where smaller organisations could not play a full role, while Allen said there was not enough support for the civil society sector in the transition from grants to payment-by-results contracts from local authorities and government.

Allen and Holbrook also warned about the transfer of risk in recent government contracts such as the Work Programme, in which they said prime contractors often passed down risk to smaller sub-contractors in their supply chain.

Allen said NCVO was working with Serco to develop standards around how the prime and sub-contractor relationship should work, including the level of support giving to sub-contractors and the availability of shared back office facilities.

Serco counts a number of charities and social enteprises in its supply chain on government programmes such as the Work Programme and National Citizen Serivce. 

During the hearing, Allen and Holbrook also called for more transparency around data in the Work Programme, with both complaining that it was not clear which organisations were doing well, and which were doing less well.

Holbrook suggested that prime contractors on public contracts should be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

EU contracts
Holbrook also told MPs he had recently met Commissioner Barnier who was very receptive to increasing the income threshold under which EU contracts are exempt from some rules and regulations.

“I argued for increasing the threshold,” he said. “And Commissioner Barnier was very receptive to opening up contract opportunities for SMEs.”

Holbrook also said he was lobbying for the EU to follow principles in the recent Social Value Act.

This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/finance/news/content/14389/