Ed Garcez, the chief digital and information officer (CDIO) of Camden, Haringey and Islington councils, has called on the government to focus on rectifying the G-Cloud procurement process that, he claims, has failed in terms of transparency and creating a level playing field for small and medium-sized suppliers.
"It has created a playing field that only works if your business has been around for at least three or four years, if you have a steady turnover, if you have a team of people… and that doesn't feel like a level playing field to me," he said.
In an interview with V3, Garcez explained that while G-Cloud had created opportunities for smaller suppliers it was still hamstrung by "the fear of procurement legislation".
"I would like to be able to work with smaller suppliers - G-Cloud is a way of doing that but I still think we're very hamstrung by some of the procurement legislation and sometimes it's just the fear of procurement legislation," he said.
Of smaller suppliers, he said there are numerous small companies in London ranging from those with only three or four employees to those with 40 employees "doing fantastic innovative things".
"We saw a company with a great product to revolutionise the way social care is delivered. But the sad thing is that I know I can't buy from this company because in order for them to pass through the procurement process they need to jump through so many hoops that they won't be able to," said Garcez.
Furthermore, he added, "they would have to demonstrate financial stability, which they don't have because they're a start-up. They would be beaten by all of the large suppliers who have big teams".
Garcez, who was previously the Tri-borough CIO, in charge of the IT at Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea councils, explained that while G-Cloud has driven a change and opened people's eyes to a different way of doing things, it hasn't been a successful channel for small, niche suppliers.
"One of the things we've been trying to do for the last few years is work with small companies - but the challenge we have is that the second we become successful with them , we get to a place where the contract value exceeds the OJEU threshold and we're back in the procurement problem," he said.
This means that even if a public sector organisation wanted to go out on a limb and do a prototype or a pilot that costs £15,000 for example, and it works very well - the company in question would only make between £1,000 to £2,000 in profit.
"Then to go to the next iteration they've got to spend £50,000 or £60,000 on a procurement exercise - it just doesn't make sense, so I think there needs to be a G-Cloud Version 2, which has a better way of contracting with SMEs," said Garcez, who emphasised that this wouldn't be about removing competition from big companies as there are some services he would never want to buy from an SME.
Instead, Garcez said it would be about helping to nurture the SME sector and learning from it.
Garcez also empathised with SMEs that are trying to get more business within the public sector after it was announced that there would be a 50 per cent tax hike for suppliers that use the G-Cloud programme.
A few weeks ago, the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) confirmed that suppliers would have to pay 50 per cent more on commission from sales received through the G-Cloud framework from May 2017 when the next iteration launches. This would mean an increase from 0.5 per cent to 0.75 per cent.
"We're missing out - and that for me is the biggest pity. It is unfortunate that the G-Cloud tax is going up - that will be a further challenge to SMEs," said Garcez.
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