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How strong is your audit trail? Would it stand up to scrutiny?

Openness and transparency have long been considered core principles in the successful management of a project – indeed, Public Contract Regulations promoting the equal treatment of suppliers have been in place since the 1970s.  The importance of maintaining a full audit trail of how and why the winning tenderer was selected is also well emphasised in public procurement law.

But what about the decisions you make prior to going out to tender? As you embark on your procurement you need to manage and bring together a large number of stakeholders along with a wealth of information and detail. So how well do you understand the Public Contract Regulations and how prepared are you to justify the actions you took at a procurement’s inception?

As a buyer or commissioner from a contracting authority, you’re under pressure to know the answers. The number of enquiries from interested senior executives or government policy makers about the procurement routes taken, or even how you defined and chose your assessment scheme design, are growing.

The high levels of rigour necessary to maintain records relating to the decisions you took at every stage of your procurement are compounded by PCR2015 #84:  The level of record keeping and the detail required is such that the likelihood of your audit trail being lacking is significantly increased.

“Where the Cabinet Office so requests, a contracting authority shall communicate the report, or its main elements, to the Cabinet Office or to such other body as the Cabinet Office may direct… To that end, contracting authorities shall ensure that they keep sufficient documentation to justify decisions taken in all stages of the procurement procedure.”  1

The Regulation 84 Report must be real-time and can be requested at any point during the procurement and for up to three years following its completion.  It requires documented evidence of every decision made along with justification. Thorough record keeping and a detailed audit trail throughout your procurement are therefore essential in ensuring you can comply with Regulation 84 and defend the decisions you make.

Whilst Brexit may bring change to public contract rules in the UK, for procurement it’s very much “business as usual”.  The requirement to justify your decisions will not go away – requests for information can be unpredictable and you’ll always need to be ready to defend your procurement decisions and the contract award with a robust, thorough audit trail:

“Contracting authorities shall document the progress of all procurement procedures, whether or not they are conducted by electronic means.” 2

Whilst not exhaustive, we have put together the following list of essential items that should be recorded during the procurement process: 

  • Date and time stamping of all activity
  • Criteria and guidance
  • Scoring scheme design and decision process
  • Weighting decision process
  • Evaluation panel acceptance of COI and terms of involvement
  • All scores and rationales
  • All clarifications, issues
  • All related documents and submissions
  • Reporting  
  • Contract award decision

To ensure you don’t have to worry about maintaining an automatic, accurate, real-time audit trail, Commerce Decisions has developed solutions that not only support this requirement but add significant value to the overall decision-making process.

Our AWARD® software suite and expert services have been specifically designed to help you overcome any audit and transparency issues, adhere to policy and protect you from scrutiny. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you deliver robust decisions.

Interested in some further reading?

AWARD® SCD:  Find out about SCD – our formalised methodology to help you consistently produce the best possible competition conditions with full traceability.

AWARD® Weighting Workshop: Discover how to develop robust weightings so that you can be confident your requirements are being fairly considered.

AWARD® Real Value for Money: Learn how to provide bidders with a transparent scoring mechanism whilst ensuring you achieve value for money in this datasheet.

AWARD® Evaluation: Find out how we can help you to deliver efficient bidder debriefs and a full audit trail of decisions made.

1 and 2   The Public Contracts Regulations 2015  www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/102/regulation/84