One of the many bits hidden away in last week’s budget was the Government’s intention not to ask bidders for central government business to provide 10 years of tax records and sign a solemn declaration that they have not undertaken any ‘failed tax avoidance’. In February HMT’s website pronounced solemnly, ‘suppliers will also be required to disclose if they have been convicted for tax related offences or have been subject to a penalty for civil fraud or evasion’. Last week the Government realised that companies only have to keep records for 7 years anyway and that this might create more bureaucracy when it is trying so hard (allegedly) to reduce it.
It is all reminiscent of one of the questions that you get asked on 1-94W when entering the USA about any association you might have with ‘the government of Nazi Germany’. Even if you are old enough for it to be even possible, you would not declare it to the US authorities knowing that it will mean incarceration at Guantanamo Bay. Similarly, if companies have been involved in tax fraud they are most unlikely to declare it knowing that it will lead to elimination from a contract process. Yet more to the point, doesn’t the UK Government already keep any records of tax related convictions by companies / individuals?
Sadly, public procurement has long been a vehicle for policy fantasists to be seen to be doing something. Every day hundreds of PQQs are dutifully completed by suppliers. Does anyone check that their answers are truthful? Indeed, does anyone care unless the ticks are not where they should be? Not really, as at best it is all about going through a process and at worst it is covering ones back in case something goes wrong.
Am I now the only person that believes that this meaningless gesturing is undermining the efforts of those seeking to show the true worth of a professional procurement function?