The Mystery Shopper Service investigates and addresses concerns raised about public sector procurements. It also undertakes proactive investigations - ‘spot checks’ - of procurement processes and documentation. The service was launched in February 2011 as part of a range of measures to build the commercial capability of contracting authorities through their adoption of good procurement policy and practice; and to ensure that public procurements do not impose unnecessary barriers to small businesses when bidding for public contracts.
Suppliers are able to raise concerns about the conduct of a procurement process they have been part of which will in turn be investigated by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS). CCS may issue instructions to the contracting authority on how to remedy the specific problem or work with the contracting authority on recommendations to avoid similar issues in the future. (CCS does not have the power to require a contracting authority to delay or suspend award of a ‘live’ procurement’).
Outcomes of cases will be published on the Mystery Shopper Results website and through social media. The Mystery Shopper team will also follow up with contracting authorities to make sure their recommendations have been implemented.
Serious or persistent supply chain issues will be raised with the Crown Representative in addition to CCS investigations.
The Mystery Shopper scheme carries out spot checks on procurement processes. This extension of the Mystery Shopper scheme was announced in the report Small Business GREAT Ambition.
The Mystery Shopper team examines procurement documents, typically from online portals, and discusses their findings with the contracting authority responsible for the procurement. Cases are selected at random from a spread of organisations, either looking at general procurement issues or focusing on particular aspects of the procurement. The team will publish the results of cases in line with the government’s commitment to transparency.
What to do if you are contacted by the CCS Mystery Shopper Service?
CCS Procurement Policy Note 09/15 explains new requirements on contracting authorities to ensure they comply with procurement investigations.
If investigated, a contracting authority covered by the statutory requirements must give reasonable assistance and must provide information and documents required by Mystery Shopper within 30 calendar days. Further information on what to do if contacted by the CCS Mystery Shopper Service can be found in the Procurement Policy Note.