Recent guidance issued by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health confirms that the Government’s transparency commitments apply to NHS bodies!
This means that:
- All new ICT contracts must be published online from July 2010.
- All new tender documents for all contracts over £10,000 must be published on a single website from September 2010, with this information to be made available to the public free of charge. All documents means at a minimum the advertisement of the requirement; the pre-qualification questionnaire and the invitation to tender (it does NOT refer to bids received from the suppliers) and relates to new procurement activity commencing from 1 September;
- All new contracts to be published in full from January 2011; this is likely to be subject to a threshold for publication of whole life contract value over £10,000 (as the publication of tender documentation guidance states that across the three commitments, this will be the case). However as yet no guidance has specifically been issued on this requirement to publish all new contracts in full, so it is unclear whether this what the threshold will be.
All expenditure over £25,000 must be published, with the expectation that the published data reflects how each individual item was originally recorded in financial systems. This includes all individual invoices, grant payments, expense payments or other such transactions (excluding paybill) over the £25,000 threshold. All expenditure over £25,000 from the 1 April to 30 September 2010, must be published by 31 October 2010. Publication will then continue on an ongoing basis, on the 15th working day of each month, starting on 19 November for October's expenditure. The guidance suggests that if entities are in a position to do so, they may publish all transactions regardless of size and notes that the threshold may be lowered in the future.
Organisations should publish new ICT contracts on their websites, whereas an on-line system for the publication of tender documents has been established. Organisations are also required to complete and return a reporting template. Limited redactions are available in relation to all publications, to comply with obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. However, whilst redactions are left to the discretion of the organisation, who bear responsibility for making assessments and responsibility for any redaction necessary, the guidance clearly emphasises the Government’s commitment to greater transparency.
NHS bodies must now put in place procedures to comply with the requirements and ensure confidentiality agreements in contracts permit such publication.