The Mystery Shopper scheme is part of a Cabinet Office idea to investigate procurement issues that are affecting small and medium-sized enterprises. The idea behind the initiative is that from this information the service is going to be able to offer improvements for people in the procurement process. The investigations are completed and published online for everyone to access so the whole sector can get an idea of what sort of practices are happening.
There has recently been some success with this as two cases have been seen as successfully resolved by the Mystery Shopper service. One example is of a small company who are working on a contract basis with the NHS in London and they raise concerns about payments being made on a contingency fee basis only.
Essentially this means that the payment can take a longer time to be made and often is erratic. This is something that small businesses are often less able to cope with and so the NHS has been pressured to review their approach and introduce a new fee system which is going to make it easier for small businesses to compete in the sector.
Another case was of the revenue office making payments on time to their lead contractor, but that contractor failing to pass the money down the line to smaller businesses in time, making it difficult for them to do business. Again, the Mystery Shopper service came into use here as the prime contractor for the revenue office was pressured into passing the money down the chain to the smaller company much more promptly.
Cabinet office minister, Francis Maude commented, “Small and medium-sized companies are absolutely essential to the future of this country’s economy and this project helps us make life easier for them so they are able to do business with public bodies fairly.”