7. Stage 1. Preparation
It is important that local authorities recognise the importance of a preparatory stage in each procurement exercise. This includes giving due consideration to a number of issues, which will make an organisation ready for procurement activity, including:
1) Procurement governance and management arrangements;
2) Project management;
3) Knowledge and skills;
4) Involvement of service users, carers and service providers.
The Scottish Procurement Directorate's Capability Assessment (2009) 34 provides a framework of questions to establish whether an organisation has efficient and robust systems to support procurement activity ( Appendix 7).
7.2 Governance and Management
Sound governance arrangements are required, which reflect the accountability for both overall social care procurement and individual procurement exercises. These arrangements should be integrated within the wider accountability framework for the local authority, since the finances and other resources will often involve significant commitments by the local authority. The governance structure should ensure there is clear leadership in social care procurement with accountability routes to the appropriate decision making forums. The decision making forum within the local authority requires appropriate support and advice in relation to social care, financial, and legal matters.
Whether the arrangements involve a Committee of the Council or some other arrangement, such as a member/officer Procurement Board, the arrangements should be described clearly, articulating roles, responsibilities and rules of operation within the overall governance structure. Procurement functions which concern any social care service, whether provided directly by the local authority or in partnership with other agencies, should include a governance and professional leadership role for the Chief Social Work Officer. 35
There should be stakeholder engagement in the development of governance arrangements, particularly concerning the level of transparency and approaches to communication. Stakeholders should be advised of the arrangements as part of information provided for individual procurement exercises. Local authorities may involve a number of staff including social work managers and procurement staff, corporate procurement staff, finance and legal services staff. It is therefore important to clarify responsibilities at the outset to ensure that duplication is avoided.
7.3 Project Management
Whilst social care procurement staff will be involved in a rolling programme of contract management and review, there will also continue to be specific major procurement exercises. Project management can provide a valuable structure for managing such procurement exercises, with features including:
- Establishing Goals/Objectives, with a defined start and end point;
- A Project Management (Procurement) Plan;
- Allocated Resources (time, people, budget);
- Project management methodologies, e.g. Prince2.
Project management methodologies are often supported by guidance on project management structure and processes, documentation and linked to training and information packages. Typically, a project management approach for social care procurement would include the following roles:
- Project Board - responsible for the procurement exercise remaining on course;
- Project Manager/Lead Officer - management responsibility for objectives/outcomes;
- Project Team/Officer - operational activity to deliver the Procurement Plan;
- Involvement Officer - responsible for communication and the involvement of service users and carers at appropriate stages.
7.4 Knowledge and Skills Training
Effective social care procurement is dependent not only on sound organisational arrangements but also the informed participation of those involved within local authorities, service providers and service users and carers as 'citizen leaders' 36. The appropriate levels of knowledge and skills required will vary. The scope of that knowledge needs to encompass the skill sets defined by the National Occupational Standards for Commissioning Procurement and Contracting 37, and should also include an awareness of:
- National social care policy and legislation;
- National procurement policy, legislation and regulation;
- Social care procurement principles;
- Council Commissioning Strategies for social care;
- Council policy and approach to social care procurement;
- Council social care procurement procedures;
- Market Analysis;
- Business knowledge;
- Risk assessment and risk impact management.
It is essential that local authorities assess the knowledge and skills of those involved in social care procurement and identify any areas of weakness and how these can be addressed.
It is also important for Local Authorities to consider the preparedness of potential service provider organisations for the procurement process and identify ways of ensuring that potential providers are able to participate in the procurement process. Failure to do this may limit the relevant market and local authorities' ability to make the best use of resources in meeting outcomes.
The Scottish Procurement Directorate has published a short guide - Tendering for Public Contracts: A short guide for businesses 38 - which provides information on the procurement process and advice for suppliers and service providers on tendering. The Scottish Procurement Directorate has also produced a more detailed Buyers' Guide to working with SMEs 39 which is intended to raise awareness amongst Scottish public sector buyers of the value for money that small and medium-sized enterprises ( SMEs) can offer. It also explores ways in which SMEs may be encouraged to bid for contracts.
The Scottish Government has introduced specific measures to ensure that the voluntary sector has the skills needed to access markets effectively. These include the provision of training to the voluntary sector on tender writing and publication of a guide to Tendering for Public Sector Contracts 40
In addition, the Supplier Development Programme ( SDP) 41 was established in 2006 following a 'business needs' survey which highlighted that procurement within the public sector was a high priority for SMEs but also one which involved barriers when it came to engagement in the tendering process. The SDP is now well established as a business growth initiative which, in partnership, delivers a range of specialist business support including the provision of advice, information, training and funding with the aim of assisting businesses to become more capable of accessing and competing for public sector contracts.
It is also important to consider how service users can be made ready for potential involvement in specific procurement activity. Local Authorities should consider how they will provide training to enable representative groups of service users and carers to gain the skills and knowledge to participate within the social care procurement process. This will involve working with service users and carers and their support organisations to identify who should participate within representative groups, assess their skills and knowledge of social care procurement and provide training and support to enable knowledgeable participation in the process. Thought should be given using advocacy services and developing citizen leadership approaches to enhance service users' confidence in participation.
7.5 Involvement of Key Stakeholders
Any social care procurement process will impact on individuals and organisations and consideration should be given to the information and communication requirements of all stakeholders. Key stakeholders should be identified at this early stage, and are likely to include: service users; carers; elected/board members; Council staff; service providers and their staff; advocacy groups; representative groups; media organisations.
It is recognised that good practice in procurement involves effective communication with the various stakeholder interests from the point at which the decision is taken to undertake a procurement exercise. Preparation will be needed to ensure that the right resources and skills are available, for example to produce easy read material, during the course of procurement exercises.