Firms fight for shrinking public purse

THE squeeze on government spending has led to a dramatic rise in companies’ complaints to the Treasury’s procurement advisory unit and a surge in Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, research showed today.

Companies unhappy with the outcome of government tenders are lodging a growing number of complaints challenging its decisions.

Firms are also increasingly using FoI requests to find out more about their rivals’ bids for tenders, the research by law firm EMW showed.

Complaints lodged with the government’s Office of Government Commerce to dispute tender decisions jumped by 84 per cent in the year to September 2010 compared to 2009, from 31 to 57. The number of complaints it investigated also rose almost 30 per cent, to 27 from 21. A company that has won a contract cannot start work until all complaints made to the OGC are resolved.

EMW consultant Simon Vumbaca said companies uncertain of their pipeline of work were becoming more protective of contracts they felt they should have won.

“There is a lot at stake,” he said. “Some companies are using the complaints system...to delay their competitor from starting the project.”

FoI requests are used to find and challenge weaknesses in a decision.

“It is one of the tools in the arsenal to find a way to challenge a decision. No stone is left unturned to find out whether a decision has been awarded fairly,” said EMW principal Giles Ferin.

The government has cut departmental budgets by an average 19 per cent over four years to rein in the deficit.