23 May 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not necessarily better able to compete with larger providers or get any more business than before the government set a target to encourage greater procurement of the sector's services in 2010, says a public accounts committee (PAC) report.
The report, Government Spending with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, states that in 2010, the government set itself a target for 25 per cent of government procurement spending to reach small and medium-sized enterprises by 2015.
It has reported progress against this target each year since then, but it is not clear whether SMEs are better able to compete with larger providers or whether they are actually getting any more government business than before.
The centre of government, led by the Cabinet Office and the Crown Commercial Service, has introduced numerous initiatives to remove barriers to SMEs doing business with government. But, says the report, "momentum has been lost with some initiatives stalling or stopping altogether and the centre needs to reinvigorate its approach".
To do this, the committee recommends that the centre should move from a generic approach of lifting barriers to a more focused approach by helping departments to identify particular areas of government business where SMEs can bring the most benefit. It needs to fill key posts so that SMEs have a strong voice in government to raise concerns about barriers and make sure that all public sector contract opportunities are communicated properly.
"The Cabinet Office needs to provide clear leadership to departments and convince us that achieving the higher target of 33 per cent by 2020 is indeed a priority objective across government," added the committee.