Contracts Finder bug sees multibillion-pound firms listed as SMEs

Written by Sam Trendall on 29 September 2017 in News

CCS working on fix as it is discovered that website for open and awarded opportunities has been publishing incorrect info for last month

A bug on the government’s Contracts Finder website has been incorrectly identifying as SMEs suppliers that are, in fact, major multinational firms, PublicTechnology has learned.
Around the start of this month, published details of contracts that have been awarded began including information on whether the chosen suppliers for each contract are SMEs. In some cases, this information is entered manually by Crown Commercial Service staff, via a tick box.
But, where applicable, Contracts Finder draws this information directly from CCS’s Salesforce customer relationship management data. The piece of software code that facilitates this provision of information – which has been present, but inactive for some time – contains a fault that means every firm listed on Awarded Opportunity Notices is designated as an SME, PublicTechnology understands.
This has meant that, for the last four weeks, visitors to the Contracts Finder site have been liable to find that a number of very large firms to have won government business have been displayed as SMEs.
For example, within the space of a few hours earlier this week, three major European IT providers – Computacenter, SCC, and Comparex – all won public sector deals and were listed as SMEs on the corresponding Awarded Opportunity Notice.

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The three companies – each of which operates across multiple countries – have annual turnover of £3.25bn, £1.7bn, and €2.1bn, respectively, and employ 13,000, 5,500, and 2,500 people. At time of going to press, all three – and more firms besides – are still displayed as SMEs on relevant Awarded Opportunity notices.

The bug only affects how details of awarded deals are displayed on Contracts Finder, and has no impact on whether the opportunities were originally listed as being suitable for SMEs, nor on the data used by the government for its SME spending figures. It is understood that none of the three firms mentioned above is actually considered by the government to be an SME.

 A fix for the bug is currently being worked on.
In the next few days, CCS hopes to find a solution that will ensure all newly published Awarded Opportunity Notices drawing data from Salesforce will display correct information on suppliers’ SME status, or otherwise. Thereafter, corrected historical data will also be uploaded to the Contracts Finder site.
A CCS spokesperson said: "This issue arose after the 'Awarded Supplier is an SME' tick box was included as a publicly viewable feature in a Contracts Finder update around a month ago. We're working on a solution to identify and correct all records and expect this to be complete in the coming days. The bug doesn't negatively affect procurements, suppliers, customers, or our SME spend data – just how this particular piece of information is displayed on Contracts Finder."

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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