The government has launched an open tender for providers of digital services on its Digital Marketplace to allow the expertise of the companies to be bought online by the public sector.
Freelance digital roles that will be filled through the marketplace include web designers, developers and security experts.
Applications will be open until 19 January with potential suppliers notified a month later.
Successful enterprises and contractors will be listed on a Digital Outcomes and Specialists procurement framework, so public sector buyers will be able to enter into contracts with them without having to go through another tendering process.
The creation of the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework follows the success of the G-Cloud? framework for IT procurement which has increased the proportion of small firms providing cloud technology services to the public sector. Some 95 per cent of the 709 new suppliers on G-Cloud 7 were SMEs.
It is the latest in a string of moves designed to open up public procurement to small firms. In February, pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) were scrapped as a tendering requirement for low-value contracts after Lord Young’s report on small firms in the UK declared them impenetrable? for SMEs.
pQQs have been found to be onerous by small businesses, often imposing more than 40 pages of questions before they can be considered for bidding for a contract, he said.
The Government Digital Service is trying to make procurement of digital services to be ‘simpler, clearer and faster, which is why it is encouraging micro firms and contractors to sell to bodies including the NHS, local councils and universities.
All public sector organisations can use Digital Marketplace to find specialists who can work on digital projects.
Some 242bn is spent by the government every year on the procurement of goods and services. In August the Cabinet Office announced the target that one-third of this would go to small businesses by 2020.
The Federation of Small Business (FSB) welcomed the plans. The government has much to gain from opening up public procurement to smaller businesses and we welcome the government’s commitment to achieve this ambitious target. To meet it, the government will need to focus on robust monitoring and challenge of poor practices wherever they are found, said FSB chairman John Allan.