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Contracting authorities now obliged to assist in mystery shopper scheme

4 June 2015

The Cabinet Office has published a Procurement Policy Note (09/15) on the requirements for contracting authorities to assist with procurement investigations – specifically the Mystery Shopper scheme. Previously, compliance by contracting authorities with this investigation process (instigated by SMEs who felt a tender exercise had not been undertaken fairly or had been unbalanced in favour of larger companies) was optional.

On 26 May 2015, section 40 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 came into force, making contracting authorities’ assistance with any such investigation compulsory. Investigations can be into the procurement process or contract management. Contracting authorities may be issued with a notice under section 40 requiring provision of documents and information; if they fail to respond they will be in breach of their statutory duty.

This gives more ‘teeth’ to central government’s powers to intervene in local government procurement and seems contrary to the model of decentralisation that the government is ostensibly working towards.

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