Local government and the growing problem of procurement challenges for enforcement services

20 October 2021

Recently, Arum, Just’s sister company conducted a local government collections network survey on the procurement of enforcement services. The survey was led by industry experts with the goal of determining how local authorities procure enforcement services and how effective their processes are.

Procurement can be a daunting challenge for any organisation, however in the public sector, with limited funds and local constituents to prioritise, there is little room for error.

This week’s Just Insights looks at the questions and the results of this survey and comes from Just’s Director of Client Development, Victoria Oliver.

Procurement of enforcement services in local government

Local government has always recognised the importance of procurement to support the delivery of quality, value for money services to local residents, more so than ever in the public eye.

This has typically been done through an open procedure. Any supplier may submit a bid for an advertised opportunity or access through a Framework agreement, where a council or buyer establishes an arrangement where a number of suppliers are accepted as a competitor to deliver the services. There is also the Dynamic Purchasing system much like a framework, but it allows new suppliers to be added all the time.

Most public bodies are subject to regulation, therefore tender outcomes can and are very often challenged.

Do local government procure enforcement services using a formal tender process?

Unsurprisingly, 90% of local government respondents answered that they do use a formal tender process to procure enforcement services. Tender processes can be more time-consuming and complex, however, in the public sector they help provide transparency and better value for the authority procuring and thus a better use of public funds.

How often do local government procure enforcement services?

Most local authorities have procured enforcement services within the last three years, with two-thirds of respondents having done so since 2019. From 2016 to 2018 just 22% of respondents did the same.

Most local governments tend to re-procure enforcement services every 4 years (55%) while only 20% do every 3 years or less. This long re-procurement cycle means that local authorities are potentially losing out on better enforcement opportunities in terms of delivery, service, and price. By reassessing enforcement needs and budget constraints more frequently, local authorities can ensure that their current performance is as good as it could be. However, with limited resources and a long tender process this is easier said than done.

How many supplies are local government organisations using simultaneously?

It has become increasingly common for both private and public sector organisations to source their enforcement needs from multiple suppliers. Only 10% of local government respondents use a single supplier, whilst 45% use four or more. Using multiple suppliers gives local governments better performance opportunities and more protection against malpractice. However, managing multiple suppliers can increase costs and add an additional administrative burden.

So how easy are local government finding the procurement process of enforcement services?

Not very, whilst 50% of local government respondents would characterise their last experience of procuring enforcement services as straightforward, a significant 10% would characterise it as quite problematic and 40% said they would characterise it as “very time consuming and burdensome”.

Only 50% seeing the process as straightforward indicates issues with the current procurement processes followed by local government.

Are local government procurement processes challenged often?

33% of local government respondents say they have previously encountered challenges to their enforcement agency procurement decisions by either the incumbent or the losing bidders.

Out of the respondents who answered yes to having their procurement decision challenged, 30% of them said the challenge succeeded and caused them to change their decision and re-procure the services and 65% of that group cancelled the procurement requiring them to leave the services with existing providers. 70% of procurement challenges fail but still cause procurement decisions to be delayed. 

What other issues do local government face with procuring enforcement services?

At the moment local government are struggling with the pandemic recovery, challenges from BREXIT and a host of other issues which is making it difficult to prioritise enforcement services. Additionally, the complexity of the current procurement processes means that time frames are often long and tedious, with a heavy reliance on external parties and consultants.

Some local government organisations raise the issues around the corporate nature of the process, and how public sector procurement often means social value dictates that poor quality tender submissions are often employed rather than the better-quality submissions for the core delivery.

Victoria Oliver
Director of Client Development