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Barbara Orser Governments increasingly are looking to employ procurement as a vehicle for economic development by stimulating growth of SMEs, but there have been few published studies of the policy impacts. Professor Barbara Orser set out to change that with her research examining the application and success rates of small businesses registered on the U.S. Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database. Her paper, “Federal SME procurement outcomes: Implications for public policy,” was presented to academic and corporate audiences last month.

“Some governments, as dominant purchasers of goods and services, use procurement as a policy vehicle to facilitate the development of SMEs into federal value chains,” says Dr. Orser, Deloitte Professor in the Management of Growth Enterprises. “But there are challenges around lack of transparency of contracting awards and excessively complicated tender bidding and reporting processes. There’s also the perception that the public sector is more difficult to deliver work to than the private sector due to a lack of responsiveness and unrealistic timescales.”

Her study seeks to learn from the American experience. The U.S. federal government has publically committed to directing at least five per cent of its spending to women- and minority-owned SMEs and the Obama Administration expanded this policy direction in recent years. Using a large-scale, online survey, Dr. Orser’s research estimates bid and success frequencies and supplier perceptions of the challenges associated with U.S. federal procurement. Dr. Orser concludes that, overall, there remains a lack of clarity about targeted procurement certification criteria and lack of feedback to assist in understanding the procurement process.

The paper was presented at the International Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference (ISBE) in Dublin last November. Key themes from the study were also presented to a closed-door roundtable of chief procurement officers of international enterprises with supplier diversity initiatives at the WEConnect Canada Annual Conference (Toronto) on November 12th.

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