The government’s Mystery Shopper service, which encourages SMEs and independent professionals seeking public sector contracting opportunities to report any issues they encounter during the process, has received 640 complaints during its first three years and resolved 79% of these positively, new figures from the service reveal.

Umbrella Company Employees who may have felt a little cynical about the Cabinet Office’s efforts to open up public sector procurement processes to smaller suppliers might wish to reconsider their stance in the light of these numbers. The service was recently enhanced by the Cabinet Office to feature spot checks and, from this week, the results of cases will be published through a new Twitter account in real time as they close. General findings from spot checks will also be tweeted.

The service is also poised to implement a 30-day limit on payments throughout the supply chain, as recommended by Lord Young, and new legislation will oblige public bodies to report their payment performance later his year. Both measures are designed to help smaller contractors and suppliers to compete on a more level playing field.

In addition, the government claims that it has made strong progress in realising its goal of diverting 25% of central government procurement spending to SMEs, which will include independent contractors, by next year.

Stephen Allott, who acts as crown representative for SMEs, said: “The role of Mystery Shopper is important because it encourages SMEs to challenge the poor procurement practices that prevent them from winning business in the first place. We want more small firms to know about the service and get involved.”

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