1 in 4 state IT contracts to go to SMEs, says Cable

A quarter of government contracts, including IT projects, are to be awarded to small businesses, according to business secretary Vince Cable.

Cable told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the government recognised it was difficult for small businesses to get through the current government procurement process.

"Our policy is to ensure that 25 percent of public procurement goes to the small business sector," said Cable. "We need to give access through small scale procurement."

The Conservative Party pledged before the elections that 25 percent of government contracts would go to small businesses, but Liberal Democrat policy was limited to considering open source and conducting a review of procurement. Liberal Democrat Cable is the business secretary for the coalition government.

The government will focus on reducing the administrative burden of procurement on small businesses, said Cable, who was speaking at the Cass Business School in London.

"The documentation is so difficult for small companies, including technology companies," Cable told ZDNet UK. "We're looking to change that."

Small businesses have struggled in the past to win government contracts. Mark Taylor, chief executive of open-source software company Sirius Corporation, welcomed the government pledge.

"It's excellent news, and it's exactly what the government should be doing," said Taylor. "It's incredibly difficult for small businesses to get into government procurement."

However, Taylor said that some government procurement mechanisms are currently in a state of flux due to public sector cuts. He gave the example of Becta, the procurement body for UK schools technology, which announced its planned closure on 24 May.

"It's an open question who will do the procurement for schools," said Taylor.

Sirius Corporation, which provides software for schools, was one of the only opensource software suppliers on Becta's list of approved IT supply companies, and one of the only SMEs. Some of Becta's functions have been passed over to the Department for Education.

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