The Cabinet Office recently released their latest report on their ‘mystery shopper’ scheme, which was implemented in 2011 to provide suppliers with a standardised method to raise concerns about public sector procurement practices. It aims to identify issues and take steps to resolve them, either on live tenders or through proactive guidance and setting of new standards. It also aims to share best practice across authorities.
The current report can be found here (links to an online PDF that can be downloaded).
Note: The link within the above report to their 2012 report does not work; instead you can find the original report here.
Mystery shopper results are published relatively regularly (although there seems to be no set period of time between publications) and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mystery-shopper-results
These results tables make for some interesting reading and the give me a certain amount of confidence that suppliers’ concerns are being listened to and acted upon.
SMEs in particular have – according to the 2014 report – been the core users of the scheme so far. This is a positive step towards giving SMEs more ‘voice and choice’ and helping them understand and benefit from public procurement opportunities. However I do think that many (or most?) SMEs are currently unaware of the scheme and until there is a wider awareness, no doubt many other issues will remain unreported.
How to report issues
More information on the scheme, including how you, as a supplier, can report any issues can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/doing-business-with-government-a-guide-for-smes#mystery-shopper-scheme
As with many Gov.uk information links, it does get a bit circular 😉 but the contact information is there and I would encourage anyone who has an issue that lies within the scheme’s scope and remit to give it a go. Do let me know how you get on.
What are your thoughts?
I’m interested to hear from anyone who has used the scheme to date and learn more about how proactive it really is, whether you got the result you wanted and how that ultimately made a difference to your bid(s).
I’d also be interested to learn more about just how well known this scheme really is. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, let me know in the comments. Or, if you have heard of it but decided not to report an issue through it, let me know why that was.