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Peers to quiz government spending watchdog on pandemic procurement

12 January 2021

Since the start of the of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Audit Office (NAO) has published several reports on public procurement, and said that: “There are standards that the public sector will always need to apply if it is to maintain public trust.”

Now the House of Lords Public Services Committee will ask the NAO tomorrow (Wednesday 20 January from 3.15 p.m.) in an evidence session about procurement and public services what those standards are, how well the Government did to meet them and what skills will be needed in future by those awarding public contracts in order to avoid mistakes made during the pandemic.

The committee will hear from:

At 3.15 p.m.:

Charles Nancarrow, Director, Regulation, National Audit Office
Joshua Reddaway, Director, Work and Pensions, Value For Money and Head of Practice Commercial and Contracting, National Audit Office

Likely questions and areas of discussion include:

  • What lessons should the Government learn about emergency procurement?
  • Is existing procurement law and policy adequate for contracting in times of crisis?
  • Has transparency in public procurement increased or decreased during the coronavirus pandemic?
  • How can procurement procedures encourage those delivering public services to innovate?

The committee will hear also (at 4.15 p.m.) from:

Tom Thackray, Director of Infrastructure, Confederation of British Industry
Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England
Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales

Likely questions and areas of discussion include:

  • Do proposals in the government’s Procurement Green Paper allow for the same flexibility seen during the pandemic?
  • Do the proposals take full advantage of the UK’s greater freedom to favour local public service providers and prioritise social value in commissioning and procurement?
  • Are the ambitions of the Green Paper at risk of being hindered by funding pressures on local government?
  • How much is the future viability of small charities and local social enterprises which specialise in delivering public services dependent on a shift towards a grant model of funding?

The virtual session will be live on Parliament TV.

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