How to achieve transparency in your procurement Procurement Essentials

From: Crown Commercial Service
Published: Tue Jul 25 2023

How to achieve transparency in your procurement - Procurement Essentials.

Why is transparency important in public sector procurement?

Scrutiny of information

The principle of transparency can be defined as ‘the access to clear, precise and accurate information that is understandable to all'.

Within the public sector, transparency is vital to ensure the spending of taxpayers' money can be properly scrutinised.

Transparency needs to be hardwired into procurement as a lack of it can result in diminished due diligence, rushed solutions and poor-quality tenders, and may lead to several problems downstream in implementation.

If carried out effectively, transparency enables processes and decisions to be monitored and reviewed, to help ensure that decision-makers can be held accountable.

Encouraging competition

Transparency also helps open public procurement to more competition by increasing awareness of contracting opportunities. Suppliers are more likely to bid if they know the process is fair - with all applicants having the same access to information and being judged on the same criteria. Making it easy for would-be suppliers to access all relevant information will also reduce both the time and cost required to tender.

Not only does this give your team a wider talent pool from which to choose, it will also help successful bidders feel like a trusted and valued part of the supply chain right from the start.

Government guidance

The Cabinet Office has produced guidance to assist departments in meeting the public sector procurement and contracting transparency requirements and ensure a consistent approach.

Transparency principles

The Transparency Principles were updated on 16 February 2017. The update requires the proactive release of information in line with the above commitments and during the life of the contract.

You should establish at the start of a contract what information can be published with exemptions following the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, for example on national security or commercial confidentiality grounds. Only genuinely commercially sensitive information should be withheld.

Contracts Finder

A redeveloped Contracts Finder website was launched in February 2015 alongside the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The Regulations require in-scope bodies to publish all advertised UK public sector procurement opportunities and contract awards above certain thresholds on Contracts Finder:

  • £12,000 for central government bodies
  • £30,000 for wider public sector bodies and the NHS

As the single publishing portal for all public sector procurement opportunities, Contracts Finder is a critical part of delivering the government's commitments for transparency in procurement and for making it easier and more accessible for smaller businesses and voluntary or charitable organisations to do business with the public sector.

Contracts Finder allows users to view and search for early market engagement notices and future opportunities, buyers to engage with suppliers to check interest in and define future procurement needs, and opportunities that are currently open to tender and awarded contracts.

User guides for buyers on how to use Contracts Finder are available from our CCS service support team, send an email to -


Building on the measures the government has already taken to open up its procurement frameworks to small and innovative businesses, it also extended Contracts Finder to the subcontracting market in 2016, offering wider access to procurement opportunities.

Contractors to the Public Sector can now register directly on Contracts Finder to advertise opportunities in their supply chains.

Public Contract Regulations (PCR) and Transparency

Regulation 18 of the PCR sets out that procurement needs to be conducted in accordance with the principles of equality, non-discrimination, transparency, proportionality and competition.

Four ways you can achieve transparency in your procurement

You can embed transparency into your procurement process through the following steps.

Warm up the market through pre-market engagement

Actively offering ‘pre-market engagement' means buyers should experience an improved process and outcome with greater competition.

Regulation 40 of the PCR 2015 enables buyers to prepare the procurement by informing operators (independent experts/other authorities/suppliers) of procurement plans and requirements and conducting market consultations.

Information gathered during this engagement may be used in the planning and conduct of the procurement procedure providing it does not have the effect of distorting competition, and does not result in a violation of the principles of non-discrimination and transparency.

Produce clear procurement documentation

Make sure that your requirements are clearly defined right from the start. The procurement package for prospective bidders should be clear and to the point, including the timeline, setting out the end-to-end tender process in detail. Include clear specifications containing realistic asks, key performance indicators (KPIs), and service levels, all provided in formats that are accessible for all parties.

For qualitative elements, the package should explicitly say the capabilities that are required, how they are to be evidenced and, wherever possible, clearly established in the assessment process, including the relative weight attributed to each section or question so that bidders understand this when producing their response

Well defined evaluation criteria will enable suppliers to understand what they are being assessed on - but make sure that this links back to your specification/service asks.

Finally, consider how easy it will be for SMEs to respond to ensure a breadth of inclusive competition for all.

Good communication and status updates

Construct a realistic timeline that is advertised in your Prior Information Notice and maintained throughout the progression of the procurement. Publish procurement and contractual notices in line with required timings and complete with all required information. This will drive improved relationships with the market and create a ‘trusted partner' relationship.

Carefully consider the use of your procurement communication tools. Ensuring that any emerging information that could be considered ‘new' is shared with all participants in the process. Communication should be kept to a single official channel and recorded so that parties are clear on who has communicated what and to whom to avoid the need for later clarification.

Support for bidders should be channelled via a single point of contact in the procurement team, who can answer (or obtain answers to) any queries about the tender process, what is required, and progress.

Stay informed

Finally, always check that you are adhering to the latest guidance issued regarding thresholds for your organisation. The guidance can be found in the latest issued Procurement Policy Note (PPN).

The Transforming Public Procurement (TPP) programme puts transparency front and centre of a bold vision so that the spending of taxpayers' money can be properly scrutinised. Find out further information on the upcoming TPP reforms.

Find out more

To learn more about contract finder and transparency:

More information and guidance for public and third sector buyers, as well as full details of all of our commercial agreements, can be found in the latest CCS digital brochure.

More: You can now find all of our Procurement Essentials articles in one place on our website.

Company: Crown Commercial Service

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