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The government has established a new set of online procurement tools, it says will make it easier for small businesses to compete for lucrative government contracts. The final testing of the system will be completed by the end of May 2005, when the system will be launched as part of a larger e-procurement toolkit.

OGCbuying.solutions, the trading arm of the Office of Government Commerce, has signed a four-year deal with and electronic procurement specialist BravoSolution, to host and manage a web-based buying service, covering the full life cycle of the bidding process. BravoSolution is the company behind the online reverse-auction procurement system that recently saved the Department of Constitutional Affairs £250,000 on a contract for new IT kit.

This new system will move the whole tendering and request for quotation process online, and should help level the playing field between suppliers.

A spokeswoman said: "With traditional procurement processes there are costs for paper, printing, stamps maybe even courier costs." But because this service is all online, it doesn't cost anything to submit a bid, she added. These costs are not a big factor for larger companies, but can quickly add up for smaller businesses.

The system covers four main areas: tendering, evaluation, contract management and collaboration. It also allows companies to submit their bids at the last minute. ®

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