To some people G-Cloud seems too simple to be legal. It seems there’s something reassuring about a long, complex, expensive procurement process. The idea of just searching for what you want and then buying it just seems wrong. But it’s not. It’s fine.
Setting up the framework(s)
Legally speaking the G-Cloud commercial vehicles (the current G-Cloud I and upcoming G-Cloud II) are frameworks established through an OJEU under the Open Procedure. The procedure was followed fully, so is completely compliant with The Public Contracts Regulations 2006, it has just been done in an innovative way.
All providers are given a set of requirements that they have to meet both generically (such as being a company in good standing) and Lot specific. We make these requirements as simple as possible; to be accepted under the Software as a Service lot a provider simply tenders a service that falls under a generically agreed definition of Software as a Service – that is it. Suppliers can also tender under 3 other Lots: Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Specialist Cloud Services.
The tenders that suppliers provide are made up of two parts: a service definition (for which a minimum set of headings and information criteria are provided) and supplier terms and conditions (T&Cs). This minimal approach means that, for example, our requirement around Service Level Agreements (SLAs) is simply that a supplier has to tell us if they have SLAs, and if so, what they are.
We make the supplier T&Cs part of the framework contract (Schedule 1), meaning each Framework and thus each Call-Off reflects both the functional and commercial offer that suppliers are making.
Completed tenders are then assured to check that they meet the minimum criteria set out in the OJEU. Those that do (almost all of them did for G-Cloud I) are offered Framework contracts and service information loaded onto the CloudStore, ready for purchase.
Overlapping G-Cloud Frameworks
Where things get even more unusual for G-Cloud is that once we’ve gone through the OJEU process and set up a framework we go and do it all over again. So, unlike a traditional, static, framework, the G-Cloud programme is setting up multiple overlapping frameworks, each on of them established through the fully compliant OJEU process. The market of cloud services changes all the time and we want to keep up. And no, it’s not a dynamic procurement system (DPS), it’s a way of using frameworks to give some of the properties of a DPS without being one.
Under each new framework new market entrants can become part of G-Cloud. Existing suppliers can choose to resubmit their existing services, add services or change services as they wish. We are working to make this as easy as possible by improving the tool set suppliers use to tender.
Buyers need to have a set of criteria or requirements against which they judge suppliers. They search the CloudStore and look at the information tendered to see which supplier(s) meet their requirement.
The supplier’s offer cannot change from what has been tendered, so in most cases this can be done with the information already on the CloudStore. There’s nothing to stop a buyer talking to suppliers, but all they can do is clarify. No negotiation can occur as the offer on the CloudStore is fixed. In a simple case where two or more services meet the criteria the buyer must select the cheapest one. This way a buyer has fulfilled all they legally need to do to make a least cost decision.
It’s recognised that things are not always that simple, so when factors other than the top line price have a cost impact buyers can use Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT for short) as a method of selecting a supplier. The same rules apply that offers can’t change or be negotiated. All the buyer is doing is using a more sophisticated set of criteria and analysis to assess the information that suppliers have already provided.
If you want to check the details, the way that a buyer selects a given supplier is set out in the Framework contract (we have rewritten in G-Cloud II for clarity but it’s essentially the same process as G-Cloud I).
That’s as complicated as G-Cloud gets. It’s all by the book. It’s just that G-Cloud has provided tools and streamlined what traditionally was complex. Simple, legal, efficient. G-Cloud.