The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has moved to assure the public sector IT buying community that the apparent removal of the supplier transparency function from the newly launched G-Cloud 13 framework is temporary and will be restored by mid-December.
The much-delayed 13th iteration of the government’s flagship cloud procurement framework went live two months later than planned on 9 November 2022.
Shortly after it went live, members of the public sector IT buyer and supplier community began raising complaints about the fact that it was no longer possible for non-buyers to view the services available to purchase through it.
This also means it is not possible for the framework’s suppliers to view each other’s listings, and among the complainants is Chris Farthing, CEO of public sector procurement consultancy Advice Cloud, who first flagged the omission in a post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn.
“I was really looking forward to the much-delayed launch of G-Cloud 13 to see what new and innovative services there were out there,” he wrote. “Instead, I’m deeply disappointed today to find that Crown Commercial Service have removed the supplier transparency function.
“I’m not sure if this is deliberate policy or a mistake on behalf of the CCS dev team responsible for the new ‘improved’ platform. I cannot think of a single supplier from the 3,000-plus that have actively traded through G-Cloud that would think this is a good idea.”
As several stakeholders pointed out in the comments to Farthing’s post, the inability to compare and see what other suppliers are offering flies in the face of one of the framework’s core founding principles.
The Government Cloud Strategy, published in 2011 ahead of the first iteration of G-Cloud going live in 2012, set out the framework’s aims and ambitions, stating: “Transparency and comparison are critical elements to establishing a vibrant market between suppliers… [in 2011] very few [government ICT services] can be directly compared on price, scope and quality… and suppliers cannot easily gauge their own performance except against the specific contract, which stifles innovation and improvement.”
In response to the uproar, CCS has moved to assure the public sector IT buyer and supplier community that the framework’s supplier transparency functionality will be reinstated in due course, and is missing for now because of a technical glitch affecting the digital platform the framework runs on.
The platform, known as the Contract Award Service (CAS), is still under development and is being built with a view that all CCS framework agreements will be hosted on it one day.
Computer Weekly understands that G-Cloud 13 has gone live on a minimal viable product version of the CAS, which has various pieces of functionality missing, including the supplier transparency feature.
In response to Farthing’s post, Philip Orumwense, commercial director and chief technology procurement officer at CCS, published one of his own that shed some further light on the technical difficulties that have blighted the launch of G-Cloud 13.
“During the initial development stages for G-Cloud, we experienced a number of technical challenges relating to the structure of the G-Cloud agreement and in order not to further delay the launch, we had to take the difficult decision to temporarily suspend some functionality and reduce current scope of our end-to-end provision,” he said.
“However, the transparency functionality, which we deem critical for both G-Cloud and DOS [Digital Outcomes and Specialists] will be reinstated in the near future.”
According to sources at CCS, the government procurement body is hoping to have the transparency functionality reinstated by mid-December.