Expert procurement support for Scotland’s housing associations

Scotland Excel recently completed a two-year Scottish Government-funded project, which explored and benchmarked how housing associations procure goods and services.

Expert procurement support for Scotland’s housing associations

Colin Taylor

This first phase of the initiative finished in April 2019 with one third of Scotland’s housing associations completing the audit. The project allowed housing associations to access shared data, national contract opportunities and guidance on the community benefits of public procurement.

The programme was implemented following a 2016 pilot. Seven housing associations across Scotland took part in an assessment and the results suggested there was scope for improvement across the sector.

The programme was led by Colin Taylor, Scotland Excel’s affordable housing project manager, and supported by several in-house procurement experts to build a comprehensive picture.

Colin said: “The pilot project was very well received, and we started to get requests from other stakeholders in the affordable housing sector to assess their capabilities. So, the Scottish Government gave Scotland Excel additional funding to undertake a wider voluntary programme to improve procurement by housing associations.

“It was a very busy time for the team but also very rewarding, as we were getting great feedback from housing associations and more and more were asking us to help them.”

During the programme, Scotland Excel promoted the benefits of the Scottish Procurement Model including; financial savings, improved governance, organisational efficiencies and implementation of policies including for the Scottish Living Wage, tackling zero hours contracts and raising awareness of anti-slavery and serious and organised crime.

Housing associations were encouraged to work with supported businesses, with Scotland Excel offering to signpost and facilitate meetings.

Colin added: “In addition to assessing their procurement capabilities, we were also able to introduce housing associations to companies that have a strong element of social responsibility. And a couple placed contracts with supported businesses as a result.”

At the end of the assessment period for each housing association, Scotland Excel provides an improvement plan identifying strengths and further opportunities for efficiencies. Although the size and scope of each association varies widely, there is a lot of commonality in good practice and further opportunities for improvement.

Scotland Excel uses the programme to benefit all housing associations who are members of the organisation, by identifying new contract opportunities for their use. All housing association membership fees are used to fund contracts that are needed across housing associations and councils.

The first two years of the Procurement and Commercial Improvement Programme (PCIP) for housing associations were judged a success by the sector, and Scotland Excel has been in discussions with Scottish Government about its continuation early next year.  

Housing associations who would like to know more about the programme, or becoming an associate member of Scotland Excel, can email  

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