Acevo wants clarity on government plan to tender for partners to provide grants

The Crown Commercial Service says it will develop a pan-government framework agreement for provision of grant design, delivery and support services

- This story was updated on 23 March; please see final paragraph

The charity chief executives body Acevo has called for more detail after the Cabinet Office indicated it would go out to tender for one or more partners to provide government grants to the charity sector.

In a prior information notice submitted this month in the Official Journal of the European Union, which is the gazette of record for the EU and includes invitations to tender, the government’s procurement channel, the Crown Commercial Service, says it intends to develop a pan-government framework agreement for use by UK public sector bodies for the provision of grant design, delivery and support services.

The PIN says the framework agreement will appoint suppliers to administer and support delivery of central government grants and grant programmes.

It is understood that the framework is not intended to cover all government grant-making and its use will not be a mandatory requirement for public bodies. 

According to the PIN, the agreement will include the design of grants and grant programmes, assessment of applications, distribution and monitoring of central government grants, and providing services to support applicants or funded organisations.

Potential grant recipients will include voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, cooperatives, mutuals and "other socially motivated organisations".

Acevo warned that "proper dialogue" with the sector about the proposals was crucial.

Asheem Singh, its director of public policy, said: "The concern here is that, by outsourcing the application and decision-making process of grants – which is appropriate and has been done before – alongside outsourcing of the design of such programmes, government could well be taking outsourcing a step too far. The sector needs further detail and clarity immediately.

"In turn, we urge the sector to stay engaged with this important debate and make its opinions heard – and we trust government will make every effort to listen."

He said the breadth of the plans meant that the strategic and practical implications needed to be fully considered.

"Outsourcing is not a panacea and when done badly can do immeasurable damage – so we must ensure there is proper dialogue," he said.

The PIN says that the framework will comprise five lots, including those covering grant administration; implementing grant programmes and providing direct support to grant recipients; and technical support.

The framework agreement will be awarded for two years, with the option to extend for a further one or two years at the discretion of the contracting authority, the PIN says. Details of the tender’s cost have not yet been released and no dates are mentioned in the PIN for when the programme will start.

- The story originally said the government wanted a single partner to provide the service but it could be several. 

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