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Revealed: Public sector tech procurement rates fall as transformation projects put on ice

Tech buyers and suppliers had hoped that with a no-deal Brexit temporarily averted and the launch of a new Spring Budget, 2020 might see a resurgence in digital transformation projects across Whitehall and the wider public sector.

But the coronavirus outbreak has put paid to those hopes, prompting a renewed focus on business continuity that has distracted digital and technology leaders from longer term projects.

Now, new analysis by GlobalData, shared exclusively with NS Tech, reveals that rates of technology procurement have dropped significantly. The number of procurement opportunities fell year-on-year in February from 954 to 594, a 38 per cent drop, and from 1,105 to 837 in March, a 24 per cent drop.

Meanwhile the number of framework awards also dropped dramatically year-on-year in both months. In February it fell from 97 to 24 and in March from 107 to 21, a 75 per cent drop.

However, while the total number of opportunities fell according to every metric, there is better news when it comes to the value of contract tenders and awards issued over the last two months.

Although the value of deals fell year-on-year from £39.4bn in February 2019 to just £3.5bn in the same month this year, it rose again in March, with a year-on-year rise of £2.9bn to £13bn.

The value of frameworks was lower in both months in 2020, however. The value of tech frameworks fell from £7.3bn in February 2019 and March 2019 to £1.1bn and £4.2bn respectively.

“The number of opportunities are way down,” says Amir Boubaker, an analyst in GlobalData’s public sector tech team. “It seems that organisations are less inclined to put frameworks out to tender because they tend to be large in scale and run for much longer periods of time. With all the uncertainty IT and tech suppliers will more likely bid on opportunities that are more agile in scale and contract length.”

We’re keen to hear from buyers and suppliers about their experiences of tech procurement in light of the coronavirus outbreak. If you have a story to share, get in touch with oscar.williams@newstatesman.co.uk.