Public bodies in Wales spend over £6 billion each year procuring a range of goods, services and works; this represents nearly a third of total devolved Welsh annual expenditure, and it is estimated that over the next decade Welsh public services will spend over £60 billion.

Wales has the opportunity to think about how and where to spend that money in the interest of current and future generations.

Imagine what it could mean if this money was being spent on buying things AND improving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of people and communities in Wales?

The Well-being of Future Generations Act should be the overarching framework for public procurement in Wales. Procurement is one of the seven corporate areas for change in the Act statutory guidance (Shared Purpose: Shared Future, SPSF 1: Core Guidance) and it must be a key area of focus for public bodies in meeting their obligations under the Act.

As the guardian of future generations, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe has identified Procurement as an area of focus throughout 2019-20. The Commissioner is conducting procurement research to establish the extent to which the Act is informing the procurement process and procurement decisions.

“We need to focus on the outcomes and not the process of procurement.” – Steve Edwards, Director of Regulation & Commercial Wales & West Utilities.

Below are the areas the Commissioner recommends that all public bodies, including Welsh Government, should focus on:

  • Develop leadership that supports a strategic approach to procurement, recognising the ‘power of purchase’ 
  • Procuring well-being: a focus on outcomes and measuring what matters
  • Focussing on longer-term financial planning
  • Promote effective collaboration, with each other and suppliers to improve sharing, learning, capacity and skills
  • Build on established frameworks, including legal
  • Promote a can-do mindset and attitude

For full evidence, assessment, key findings and advice please see the section on Procurement on our designated future generations report website. 

Following the publication of our Future Generations Report, we have developed bite-sized and targeted products to help support the implementation of the Act and the recommendations outlined in the report including ‘What the Procurement Review Report means for Public Bodies and Welsh Government‘.

Procurement research & review

Working in collaboration with Cardiff University, the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has undertaken research and a Section 20 Review, to establish the extent to which the Act has been informing procurement decisions across the public bodies in Wales since 2016 (when the Act came into force).  

The main findings from the research phase of this work are outlined in the ‘Spotlight on Procurement’ within the Commissioner’s Future Generations Report published in May 2020.  

The Report ‘Procuring well-being in Wales’ was published on February 25th 2021, explaining key findings, highlighting good practice and outlining recommendations based on the Section 20 Review.  

This report contains findings and recommendations specifically for the nine public bodies who were subject to the Section 20 Review. It includes those which are relevant to public bodies and those which are primarily directed at the Welsh Government in its leadership capacity. The nine organisations have a statutory duty (Section 22(4)) to publish their response to the recommendations made by the Commissioner in this report. Public bodies are encouraged to do so within 25 working days of the recommendations being published. Many of the recommendations are equally relevant to all public bodies who should consider them as advice, and we will be following progress as part of the Commissioner’s duty to provide advice and assistance and to monitor and assess how public bodies are making progress towards their well-being objectives. 

There is also a Bitesize document, summarising the Commissioner’s vision for procurement, identifying the key issues highlighted by public bodies during the research and Section 20 Review, as well the recommendations outlined in the Report ‘Procuring well-being in Wales’.  

In addition, there are resources produced by the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales that may provide further guidance. 

The Art of the possible is one of the Commissioner’s main programs of work, setting out a positive vision for Wales. You can find some advice in these Journeys

The Future Generations Framework has been created to support the public sector and others in Wales to deliver projects and infrastructure fit for the future. 

The National Themes, Outcomes, and Measures Wales (TOMs) is a framework for social value measurement and management, designed to maximise well-being through spending. The Commissioner has developed a case study illustrating how the TOMs was developed through applying the five ways of working and demonstrates contribution towards Wales’ National well-being goals.  

Our work in this area:

We have been part of the Social Value Taskforce, supporting the development and implementations of the National TOMs Wales. This framework for social value measurement and management is mapped against Wales’ seven national well-being goals and the five ways of working were applied during its development. 

Since the Commissioner’s office was established in 2016 we have been looking at how procurement is delivered in Wales in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act. 

We have raised concerns with Welsh Government and provided evidence to the National Assembly for Wales’ Public Accounts Committee highlighting the fact that procurement policy and practice in Wales has not kept up with the new requirements under the Well-being of Future Generations Act. 

Following these interventions in September 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford AM, initiated a review into the National Procurement Service and Value Wales. 

In order to secure policy and procedural change in this area some of the things we have done include: 

  • Contributed to the Welsh Government review through membership of the Stakeholder Reference Group. 
  • Challenged public bodies to look at how they can use procurement as a vehicle to test new ways of thinking and find ways for procurement to deliver far more than just products and services by utilising the whole life-cycle approach, contributing to the zero waste and decarbonisation agendas and delivering real community benefits, both in Wales and in developing countries. We have been working with a range of organisations including WRAP, Good Practice Exchange and Business in the Community to explore opportunities to collaborate, to challenge and change the way procurement is done in Wales. 
  • Worked with the National Procurement Service (NPS) to influence the development of new food frameworks in the National Procurement Service – The outcome of this work is that 80% of suppliers on the new fresh food contracts are Welsh SMEs. 
  • Included advice on procurement in my statutory advice to public services boards. 
  • Supported Welsh Government’s approach to developing pilots focused on the Act, working with Caerphilly, Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire councils to develop an effective and consistent approach for applying the Act to procurement activity in organisations, which can then be replicated across Wales. 

To stay up to date with the Commissioner’s work within procurement see News and Press releases and sign up for the Future Generations Newsletter.