back to article Brit prosecutors ask IT suppliers to fight over £3 USB cable tender

Small businesses have often moaned that government procurement is just one massive pork barrel, with only the greediest and biggest able to stick their snouts in. But some departments are doing their best to carve up tenders into smaller, more manageable chunks. Step forward the UK's Crown Prosecution Service, which threw a …

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  1. big_D Silver badge

    Sorry, but if it costs 3 quid on Amazon, then order it from Amazon, or run down to Dixons or whatever. It costs more to put out the bloody tender!

    If it was for a thousand pieces, fine, but 1 cable? Get real!

    1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      You miss the point.

      The bureaucracy droid has to generate the tender, audit the tender documents when returned and issue the final tender. He could have ordered the part from Amazon or Joe Bloggs Computer sales down the road but that's not his job.

      When no tender documents are returned due to it being a "bloody stupid thing to tender for", the bureaucracy droid asks their preferred Megacorp to bid and supply an approved part which they do at a single price of £25. A follow up order can then follow for 30000 of the items at a generously discounted rate of only £15 per item. It's a win-win for bureaucracy jobs, Megacorp profits and of course us, the great unwashed people, as they've got such a good deal by bulk purchasing ...

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        re The bureaucracy droid

        I worked for one company that, after privatisation, was flooded with accountants. Before that I could have spent £5k and explained it later. After that everything went though an ever increasing cabal of accountants. We worked out that at one point it was costing them around £100 to asses whether I could have a £5 item. It got the the point where we spent £30k on overtime to meet a timeslot we had arranged with a supplier only for the work to be done on time but the slot was missed because I could no longer sign to have the tape with the design sent to the US ($24!!!) and those up the tree refused to even think about it. Apparently I should have known the procedures would change randomly and taken that into account.

        1. fredj

          Re: re The bureaucracy droid

          Ah, accountants! The only thing most of them are really good at is telling you how the company went bust and in great detail.

          1. TheDillinquent

            Re: re The bureaucracy droid

            ...comes from knowing the cost of everything but not understanding value.

        2. TheDillinquent
          Angel

          Re: re The bureaucracy droid

          Yep, that's what happens when you get an infestation of accountants, there is no treatment, you just have to wait til they disappear up their own arses. Unfortunately this is usually fatal to the host.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        " the bureaucracy droid asks their preferred Megacorp to bid and supply an approved part "

        And that, right there, is how "The Usual Suspects (TM)" are still the #1 way that the UKG spends most of its IT £.

        UKG is a cash cow for them because they've put in the time and effort to make it so.

        "It's too much effort for such a small order." Make it a template document and chase a dozen.

        Then if they are all refused lawyer up and take procurement to court. You have to stand your ground and fight. Something most SME's don't seem to get.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Dixons Price

      As they charge £19.99 for a short HDMI cable (but it is super gold plated said the helpful driod) that puts them out of the running for a USB cable on price alone. Their Cables must have a liberal coating of magic pixie dust.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Dixons Price

        I live in Germany, our equivalent of Dixons nowadays have bargain buckets with cheap cables these days... I assumed that, due to pressure from online retailers, Dixons had gone the same way...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Rob Gr

          Re: Dixons Price

          That would be nice, but I think these places know that the only reason people don't buy such things online is that they want one yesterday.

        3. hogsback

          Re: Dixons Price

          Sadly, there is absolutely no equivalent of Media Markt in the UK. I don't know why they haven't opened branches here as they have in the Netherlands etc. They would destroy the competition, such as it is.

          1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

            Re: Dixons Price

            Sadly, there is absolutely no equivalent of Media Markt in the UK. I don't know why they haven't opened branches here as they have in the Netherlands etc. They would destroy the competition, such as it is.

            Sometimes the dearth of alternatives is regional, not national. Here in the Lower Hudson Valley region of NY, no major chains want to move here because the economy is so depressed there's no money to be made here. And with the demise of Ripoff Shack and Circuit Shitty (Radio Shack and Circuit City) your only alternative is "Best" Buy, that doesn't believe in actually stocking product.

        4. Baldrickk Silver badge

          Re: Dixons Price

          You must be joking. Went looking at TVs recently, and they were flogging HDMI cables to purchase with them, 'on offer' for 'only' £79.99

          Ludicrous.

          If they can sell just one of those to a sucker, then that's worth over 25 sales of a £3 cable.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Dixons Price

        'gold plated HDMI cable'

        I have literally had that conversation in Dixons. I went in to buy a FreeView box, a youth pounced on me, telling I didn't want FreeView, I wanted Sky, and I said 'no, you want commission for selling Sky, and I don't want a monthly subscription.' So, I chose my FreeView box, and then he produced said gold plated HDMI cable, telling me I'd get a much better picture with it. Sad thing was I think he actually believed this to be true, it wasn't just sales patter.

        1. big_D Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Dixons Price

          I was in PC World years ago, before I left the UK. There was a saleshole trying to fob a customer off with a Psion Surfer modem for 150UKP... He was extolling the virtues of the modem and I listened for 5 minutes as he gave his spiel.

          Then I butted in, saying, yes, the Psion had just won an award in PC Pro's modem round-up. The saleshole smiled widely... Then I finished my sentence, the best modem for under 100UKP. His grin turned upside down.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dixons Price

          True story - I'm sure I read it on here (Or reddit..) - One young chap got sent on a 2-day course with 'Monster' on how to sell their super expensive cables. Words escape me..

    3. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Cable costs £3 but organising the tender takes 15 people 4 weeks and costs a total of £4,734!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I worked for an IT organisation where corruption was a potential problem, and for anything under £100 total order value I decided 1 quote was usually OK. You expect it to be sanity checked by the manager signing it off, and there is not much to be made by defrauding such an order value versus the cost of bureaucracy / employee time in having to obtain multiple quotes.

      (I also set £100 - £1000 2 quotes needed, and > £1000 at least 3 - which worked just fine for the time I was there.)

    5. 2460 Something

      The other point was also that they do this so they can pretend to be offering business to SME's who are so rude as to not even respond. Thereby justifying whatever the hell they want to spend from their preferred supplier (the ones that take them out for fancy meals etc...)

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Critical thinking

    I think the ability to think has reached critical condition in the Civil Service.

  3. Denarius Silver badge
    WTF?

    back when I were a lad

    and a purchasing officer, Audit would have rightly criticized this waste of time as not value for money. For once the credit card replacement for petty cash was the right way to go. You Poms really have a public Service devoted to mocking the small business sector, don't you. Don't let the clever fools running the Oz PS into the ground know, they will want to copy it.

  4. Richard Wharram

    Whose name is on it?

    Name, shame and fire.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Whose name is on it?

      > Whose name is on it?

      > Name, shame and fire.

      No, quite the opposite. The person who raised this is clearly frustrated at being prevented from doing their job by the mass of petty bureaucratic rules being taken to the extreme, and has done so as a protest.

      There needs to be some citizen awarded gongs - the anti-Queen's Honours perhaps - that can be given to people like this.

  5. Brenda McViking

    How hard is it, if you're a small supplier, to script an auto-generated response to such requests with a standard 99GBP cost for said item?

    That way if you win, quids in! (and I think you'd be surprised - even in the private sector with a lumbering no-room-to-manoevure purchasing system which seems to require a 6 month audit just to get a new supplier of coffee coasters on board - I've certainly bought such mundane and cheap things like a 10m of hookup wire for 35 quid a reel just because they were the only supplier to quote and provide next day delivery.

    Due to insurance purposes for offsite working, it was mandatory for me to hire a car for a day from Avis if I wanted to drive to Maplins - I had to provide that option to purchasing as well to get the go ahead - that option was 7 quid more expensive. Took me 45 minutes to be compliant with the process - which charged out at engineering rates of 90GBP/hr. Pork barrels and troughs? they're everywhere.)

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      You're only seeing half of it.

      There's the bid document to complete, then the anti-slavery documentation, then the evidence of being an equal opportunities employer.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        "There's the bid document to complete, then the anti-slavery documentation, then the evidence of being an equal opportunities employer."

        While onboarding as a supplier for a large services company I recently had to provide proof that we have at least £10m employers insurance in case we are sued by one of our own employees, that we have health and safety policies in place and *enforced*, that we are equal opportunities etc...

        They also insisted that we provided proof that we have measures in place to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment in the work place.

        The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee."

          So what they're asking you to do is black up (or white up, hey its equal rights), dress in womens (mens) clothes and act gay (overtly hetero)? Is that how an individual demonstrates equality?

          I suggest you call a meeting to discuss with your team.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @d3vy .....

          I can see they would have issue with your company.

          Unless there is something very strange happening 100% of the employees at your company have the same ethnicity, age group, religious belief, race, colour, gender........ Sounds like extreme discrimination to me ;-)

          Of course if I'm wrong and there is diversity then perhaps it's not impossible that one of your "employees" would choose to sue "yourself".

          1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

            @d3vy

            Of course if I'm wrong and there is diversity then perhaps it's not impossible that one of your "employees" would choose to sue "yourself".

            You could of course sack yourself, then sue yourself for unfair dismissal.

            Then as a shareholder sue the management for damaging the share price.

        3. Guus Leeuw

          @d3vy

          Dear Sir,

          you are not legally obliged to proof any of these things unless you have at least 5 employees in total (including you, if you're on the payroll).

          I'm surprised your client wasn't aware of the size of your organisation and that therefore such questions, really, aren't relevant.

          Regards,

          Guus

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            Re: @d3vy

            Guus,

            They were well aware of the size of the company and its all well and good saying I'm not legally obliged to provide it, but then they're not legally obliged to set me up as a supplier and give me work...

            They put up the hoops, I jump through them. It's just how it works. :)

        4. Pompous Git Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          "insisted that we provided proof that we have measures in place to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment in the work place.

          The funny bit, Its my company, Im the only employee."

          In the 1980s and 90s I was in much the same situation. I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring...

          1. d3vy Silver badge

            "I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring..."

            Yeah but I'm pretty sure my boss is shagging my wife!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            " I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring..."

            On the contrary, it is the only thing that makes working from home bearable

          3. 's water music Silver badge

            In the 1980s and 90s I was in much the same situation. I found that sexually harassing myself was terribly boring...

            I refer the PP to my previous response

        5. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          @d3vy "Its my company, Im the only employee" - it could be worse, if you employed your wife and used a home office, you'd have a devil of a job proving there was no sexual harassment at the workplace!

    2. Richard Jones 1
      FAIL

      @ Brenda McViking

      How true your comments were. I have been retired for some years but an associated company had even worse rules than yours. One 'command centre' had a critical capacity issue with the power feed to the site. The manager needed more seats so took the wise route of buying LED displays on petty cash for just over £100 a time rather than £2,000 per throw from the 'supplier of choice' As a circa £100 item they were not capitalised and were classed as expendable so did not justify a supplier's maintenance agreement. He also saved the cost of a new power supply, (£50,000 plus) and its follow on higher bills. Mind you their procurement cycle time for new kits was up to 12 months. This did not sit well with a just in time style desire to buy kit to service new contracts.The different business in which I worked had a customer first service ethic, so we ended up servicing both ends of the deal with equipment. (The same brilliant unit had even managed to sign off on empty racks 'as ready for service', so their super systems really worked well. The customer suffered a two week's delay while we, not the sister bunch organised the missing equipment to arrive, oops.)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How hard is it, if you're a small supplier, to script an auto-generated response to such requests with a standard 99GBP cost for said item?"

      Exactly as hard as it is for the procurer to auto-generate the request for compliance purposes whenever a nonstandard equipment request hits the support system.

      That is to say not at all.

      That is to say that's probably exactly what is happening here. Supplier is signed up as small/sme equipment supplier, so gets auto-spammed with auto-generated RFQs so they can never say they were left out of the procurement process.

  6. Only me!
    Trollface

    Tender

    I think all the small people should consider a "blind" biding process, to see where the floor is in the procurement.....so all tender away.

    Think I will start mine at £30,000 as it is a special one off procurement, which therefore means I have to put a specialist on the job who will require a manager and project manager....project plans will need to be drawn up and a factory visit to China. All very essential.

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: Tender

      Seems a bit low, the article doesn't state the length or USB standard required. You will definitely need to complete more research.

      1. Brenda McViking

        Re: Tender

        "Not what you needed?", thats a cancellation fee then. Plus a change management fee right there, plus handling fees, restocking fees, admin fees, redistribution fees and naturally because this is a government project, green fees.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It has been a while since I worked for a local council, but I am guessing that whoever put this out to tender did it to cover their own back to show that when they ordered the 3 quid Amazon cable they were getting 'best value' as they are told they have to do. It's doubtful that the usual IT suppliers would better that price. It's ridiculous bureaucracy to have to do this for such a low value item. I don't remember our department having to do this for such small items but it was 10 years ago. We would often buy small items such as the odd replacement, keyboard, mice, DVD-ROM drive etc from the local PC World down the road.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just restricted to the UK

    Used to work for a Research agency in Europe. We were not allowed to purchase from Amazon. Fullstop. even if they were the cheapest. We were also not allowed to just go to the local Hardware store (without filling out all the travel paperwork as if we were travelling to the otherside of the world). If we wanted screws we had to purchase them from the one approved online store that had about a 5000% mark-up.

    In the end, we went on our own time to the local Hardware store bought the screws and our Boss (who was actually pretty awesome) paid us back by dipping into the "hospitality" Budget and funding a night down the Pub.

    Funnily enough there wasnt particularly strict reporting requirements on the hospitality budget so it got a fair bit of use for this sort of thing...

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Not just restricted to the UK

      Common sense prevails!

  9. djstardust Silver badge

    Thank god

    They don't procure from Maplins

    GB PLC would be completely bust in a week.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

      No, no, no, these are the intelligent one's. It's the others negotiating Brexit.

      1. Tromos
        Joke

        Re: And these are the guys negotiating Brexit ?

        It's obvious that we'd, near as dammit, get the best deal by ordering Brexit from Amazon.

        1. plrndl

          Brexit from Amazon

          Any chance it could get lost in the post?

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