Tackling procurement fraud in public procurement – prevention and cure

By Georgina Laverack, Assistant Director, CMA Cartels Enforcement

Now more than ever – every penny spent in procurement counts and must represent true value for money.

Smart procurement has the power to drive economic recovery, help navigate the economic pressures that we are all facing and support ambitious net zero goals.

However, procurement fraud is a significant risk that can’t be ignored.  It is especially high now as many suppliers are under economic strain for a number of reasons including the fall-out from the pandemic, ongoing supply chain challenges post EU Exit and new economic pressures emerging from the crisis in Ukraine.  

When businesses are under stress and desperate to protect margins – they may be tempted to cut corners and break competition rules by engaging in anti-competitive practices such as bid-rigging.

Bid rigging, where suppliers get together to decide among themselves what they will bid and who will win a contract is a particularly harmful type of procurement fraud.   When left unchecked, bid-rigging can increase prices by at least 20% and sometimes more and those involved will often go to great lengths to hide wrongdoing, however there are some common red flags you should be alert to.

At the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) it is our job to protect the public by rooting out and punishing businesses that engage in bid-rigging. That is why we are partnering with the National Anti-Fraud Network to provide free e-learning and guidance in order to help you recognise bid-rigging red flags and know how best to report concerns to us.

The module takes just 30 minutes to complete. For access please log into your NAFN Academy account from the NAFN secure website. If you have any issues accessing your e-Learning account or to create an account please email e-traininghelp@nafn.gov.uk.

For further information, including case studies, short explainer films and specific advice for public procurers on what anti-competitive practices look like in practice visit the CMA’s Cheating or Competing campaign page.  

If something doesn’t feel right in a procurement process, get in touch with the CMA.   What you have seen may link with other concerns or suspicions which have been reported to the CMA.  Rest assured, your suspicions will be taken seriously, the CMA has strong powers to investigate. 

Never be tempted to confront a supplier yourself as you could risk tipping them off to a future investigation.  

Learn more about The CMA here.

National Anti Fraud Network