Pre-approved suppliers in Academy Trusts

Published by Peter Manser on 2 November 2021

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One of the most common issues we have raised with our clients during the 2020-21 academic year has been centred around pre-approved supplier lists and Trusts not always obtaining 3 quotes/tenders as per their finance manual/policy.

The pandemic hit everyone hard and Trusts in particular had to deal with far more important issues than perhaps ensuring all 3 quotes were obtained before electing to use a certain supplier. In addition, we often hear that Trusts did not get 3 quotes due to the specialist nature of the supply or that there are no other providers of such a service locally.

These are all fair reasons why controls perhaps slipped a little during the height of the pandemic. However, Trusts are in danger of using these reasons year after year and becoming complacent. This is dangerous when you need to demonstrate you have considered value for money.

So what can Trusts do?

Well, firstly, amending your own internal finance manual or policy to reflect that in certain circumstances 3 quotes may not be possible would be a good start. Too often manuals and policies lack this fair and reasonable approach.

Secondly, look to compile a pre-approved supplier list of such suppliers across the Trust. Acknowledge that their service is specialised and document that reason.

Lastly, consider adopting a policy that this list is reviewed at regular intervals e.g. every 2-3 years so that there is proof of looking to challenge whether the service represents value for money.

As I tend to say to Trusts, new and innovative supplies and services come to light over time – did we expect 20 years ago we would all have an iPhone? – and therefore testing the market every so often is good practice to just ensure you aren’t missing out.

The concept of pre-approved supplier listings has been quite a common feature in a number of ESFA investigation reports over the years so it is certainly something they feel would help benefit Trusts looking to ensure value for money.

For more information about the topic explored in this article, contact us here.

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