The B.C. Ministry of Citizens’ Services (Ministry) recently introduced a new procurement strategy (Strategy), with the aim to “change the way government buys goods and services and make it easier for businesses to access opportunities”. With over C$6-billion spent annually by the B.C. government on procuring goods and services, the Strategy could have a big impact in the province.
The Strategy outlines key concerns identified as part of a comprehensive engagement process with suppliers and buyers, including:
Suppliers report inconsistent experiences when dealing with different government agencies
Suppliers view the government as risk-averse and see limited opportunities to facilitate change by proposing new products and innovations
Suppliers report that procurement processes are too long and complicated, favouring large business over small
Suppliers report a lack of transparency in procurement processes
Buyers and suppliers both acknowledge a lack of procurement capacity in government
The Strategy sets out four goals to address these concerns:
To realize best value and increased benefit to British Columbians by using procurement strategically to improve social and environmental outcomes and promote innovation
To make it easier to do business with government with simpler, more intuitive processes
To create more opportunity for businesses of all sizes, adapting practices towards supporting, growing and sustaining a community of suppliers
To build greater capacity for procurement in the B.C. public service through enhanced training and support
INCREASED BENEFIT TO BRITISH COLUMBIANS
The first goal of the Strategy is to ensure that the government receives the best value and that British Columbians receive the benefits of government procurement. The Strategy indicates that the government will work to reduce barriers to Indigenous business groups, provide employment for equity-seeking groups in contracts, and require environmentally preferable goods and services delivery.
The Strategy also indicates that the government will place emphasis on buying innovative products that deliver better outcomes by being open to more innovative goods and services and working to better manage and tolerate risk. The government also intends to introduce a “matchmaker” function between buyers and suppliers of innovative solutions, create more opportunities for start-ups and allow buyers to use different procurement processes, such as negotiated or outcomes-based requests for proposals.
EASIER TO DO BUSINESS WITH GOVERNMENT
The second goal of the Strategy is to make the procurement processes easier to navigate. To this end, the Ministry states that it will design transparent and intuitive processes that are proportionate to the size of the procurement, and provide education for suppliers on how to engage in procurement processes. Finally, the government intends to protect procurement processes that are working well and only adopt improvements where necessary.
Critically, in connection with this second goal, the Strategy indicates that the government intends to modernize the BC Bid platform and work with buyers and suppliers to configure easy-to-use templates. The government intends to create new buyers’ dashboards that allow for strategic procurement planning and list management and new suppliers’ dashboards that support stored information in order to minimize duplicate entries. Further, the government intends to standardize suppliers’ procurement experience by reviewing its approach to risk allocation, and to develop and implement common definitions and processes to increase consistency and predictability.
The third goal of the Strategy is to provide opportunities for businesses of all sizes to ensure a strong and sustainable supplier base. This will include aggregating demand for large government-wide contracts, supporting effective mid-sized procurements and maintaining distribution lists and quick access processes for small, frequent purchases. In addition, the government will review the qualified supplier lists and supply arrangements to ensure accessibility to buyers and suppliers. Finally, education will be provided to suppliers on government procurement processes.
The Strategy also indicates that the government will foster competition by engaging and collaborating with suppliers to ensure that opportunities are well communicated and broadly accessible. One of the ways that the government intends to foster competition is through the release of purchasing forecasts, which will allow suppliers to anticipate trends and requirements.
The Strategy notes that high-value contracts with large private-sector companies may make the most sense in some circumstances to maintain certain efficiencies; however, the Strategy does not provide further detail.
The fourth goal of the Strategy is to increase the government’s procurement capacity. To this end, the Strategy indicates that the government will create a distinct career path in procurement in the public service and will provide training to current and future procurement professionals. In addition, the government intends to provide increased support to assist with the procurement process through more expert involvement at the planning stages, and training and outreach support for buyers and suppliers.
The Ministry has identified these four goals and certain action items as priorities for 2018 and 2019. A key goal in the near term will be the modernization of the BC Bids procurement platform, and the Ministry plans to expand the Strategy in 2019 and 2020 based on research and feedback from suppliers, procurement professionals and other experts. The Strategy suggests that the procurement landscape in B.C. is set to change. Suppliers will want to consider the implications of this Strategy as it evolves.