The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched a study into the supply of IT goods and services to the public sector in response to criticisms departments still use major suppliers too often.
The OFT launched a call for information in July and has since found problems in both the outsourcing of IT contracts and the purchasing of "off-the-shelf" software.
Most significantly, and unsurprisingly, the OFT received feedback concerning the apparent dominance of major IT vendors, despite various measures to level the playing field for smaller suppliers being launched over the last 18 months.
These measures include procurement service G-Cloud, which is beginning to find footing in the government IT procurement space. However, it still finds the majority of money spent going towards big players such as IBM and Microsoft.
The Cabinet Office, which looks after G-Cloud, has said in the past that the balance of spending has been broadly in line with what it expects, with around 57 percent of business going to SMEs on average. However, in recent months, the balance has shifted back towards larger vendors, with figures from June showing SMEs saw just 38 percent of the spoils from government IT contracts in that month.
Other potential sticking points for smaller vendors include "high barriers for entry and expansion" when attempting to gain public procurement contracts, which includes issues of high-level security protocols and rigorous certification requirements to become a supplier for some public-sector bodies.
In terms of off-the-shelf software, the OFT will be looking at whether public sector organisations such as schools and local authorities are getting value for money from their non-bespoke software purchases.
Nisha Arora, a senior director at OFT, said: "Information and communications technology is vital for the efficient and cost-effective delivery of today's public services and for many aspects of public-service reform.
"When competition works well, it can help drive down costs, encourage innovation and ultimately ensure that the taxpayer gets the best value for money. We want to look further into this market to understand whether it is really serving its customers' interests."
The OFT expects to publish the results of its study in March 2014.
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