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Mystery shopper investigations – using a framework agreement compliantly

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Complaints about public sector procurement processes and the subsequent investigations carried out by the Cabinet Office Mystery Shopper Service are made available each quarter and in July’s synopsis there is a useful reminder about the rules governing the use of framework agreements.

July’s synopsis had a case in which a supplier raised concerns that a Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) mini competition issued under the CCS Management Consultancy Framework (RM3745) was asking past experience questions at award stage. They were concerned that it appeared to show a lack of understanding of the difference between selection criteria and award criteria and as many large consultancies would have a lot of relevant experience, they would inevitably score more highly than smaller firms with limited experience.

Following a review, BEIS agreed that this was a valid challenge, that the evaluation approach proposed was using selection criteria rather than award criteria. This oversight occurred due to an unfortunate combination of resource pressures and urgency to deliver the procurement. Once advised of this, BEIS promptly amended the procurement documentation to properly reflect award criteria, which enabled the procurement to continue as planned.

This investigation acts as a reminder that when conducting a mini competition via a framework agreement, it’s important to read the associated framework user guide which will explain what information can and can’t be included as award criteria for your mini competition.

For more information on the mystery shopper service can be found at https://www.felp.ac.uk/content/mystery-shopper-service

Should you have any questions please contact Regional Procurement Advisor Jo Frost via email [email protected] or on 07990 763928.

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