The UK government’s procurement agency has completed the creation of a ‘debt resolution services’ supplier roster that looks set to significantly increase the use of fintech solutions across Britain’s public sector.
Global Government Fintech reported 10 months ago that Crown Commercial Service (CCS) was looking to ‘bring fintech to the fore’ through a new framework that all public sector bodies will be able to use.
The resultant four-year ‘Debt Resolution Services’ roster – which has a total proposed work value of £645m (about $862m), according to the contract summary – is designed to be “forward-looking with innovation at its heart”, according to one of its architects. Its creation will be viewed as a show of faith in fintech and fintech-related solutions to improve public sector operations and the delivery of citizen services.
The framework comprises 20 service types (known as ‘lots’). The ‘data solutions’ lot (lot number two) has particularly high promise for fintech, with companies on the roster encouraged to provide ‘innovative and evolving’ solutions, including data aggregation and open banking. The ‘affordability and monitoring’ lot (lot number three) is similar, with companies encouraged to incorporate multi-credit reference agency data, open banking and automation software to better get a handle on citizens’ individual circumstances, such as potential financial vulnerability.
But even in areas that would be considered more traditional, such as debt collection, companies’ contact bids have to demonstrate how they would ‘deliver future-proof innovative solutions, including digital strategies and sophisticated data analysis’, according to CCS, which is an executive agency of the Cabinet Office.
Global Government Fintech lists all lots’ names, as well as the chosen suppliers in the three of the 20 lots that appear most relevant to our audience, at the end of this article
Opening up opportunities for open banking
Matthew Hooper, CCS’s senior category lead for revenue, recoveries, analytics and data, described the framework as having been “designed to be forward-looking with innovation at its heart”.
He said this had been achieved in various ways, including the introduction of the ‘affordability and monitoring’ lot. This area, he explained, will see suppliers, capitalising on the possibilities of fintech to “provide solutions to the public sector to help them understand more about citizens’ and businesses’ specific and individual circumstances”.
Through combinations of open banking and credit reference agency data, public authorities will be able to better identify “potential vulnerability and find affordable and sustainable solutions, delivering value-for-money for the UK taxpayer, and fair outcomes for individual citizens and businesses,” he told Global Government Fintech this week.
Open banking refers to the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs). The UK’s HM Revenue & Customs has blazed a trail among governments globally in terms of itself using open banking, having directly engaged a fintech company to enable tax payments (to HMRC) to be paid via this method.
CCS set out last year how it envisaged greater use, through the new framework, of emerging fields such as open banking for authorities to obtain a ‘real-time’ view on people’s individual financial circumstances. It believes this will enable better spotting of potential financial vulnerabilities and help it take action, including more tailored communications, to prevent people getting into debt.
“Suppliers can offer open banking to citizens and businesses directly as an accurate, and efficient way to complete income and expenditure forms,” explained Hooper. “Alternatively, open banking providers can work with public sector customers directly, helping them understand consumer affordability and potential vulnerability. We expect suppliers on the framework to offer citizens and businesses the open banking payment option in the near future.”
‘Supporting the public sector in a number of ways’
“The services will support the public sector in a number of ways,” Hooper told Global Government Fintech. “At a very basic level, the services will simplify engagement for citizens and businesses. They will offer improved accessibility, digital options, including increased and improved self-service solutions.”
“They will also help public sector creditors to better understand customer circumstances – supporting fair treatment of citizens and businesses and fair outcomes for customers, for the public sector and for taxpayers. By understanding more about citizens and businesses, the public sector will be able to meet individual needs with bespoke solutions. For example, the public sector will be able to ensure that any debt repayment plans are affordable and sustainable,” he said. “They will also be able to identify potential signs of vulnerability so that those individuals can be directed to appropriate support.”
“In summary, the framework will offer high-quality, value-for-money private-sector solutions for the public sector,” he said. “Suppliers will work in partnership with public-sector clients, both using best practice to drive improvement in outcomes.”
The proposed work value of £645m is gross spend through the whole framework during the life of the framework. It is an estimate based on usage of previous frameworks and feedback from potential customer engagements. But there is no guarantee of spend through the framework.
New framework for use across the public sector
CCS, headquartered in Liverpool, supports the public sector by aggregating demand for the procurement of common goods and services.
The DRS replaces Debt Management Services, which CCS describes as a bridging framework after the closure of its ‘Debt Market Integrator’ (DMI) programme.
The new framework is available for use by central government departments and their arms-length bodies and agencies, as well as the wider public sector and third sector including local government, health, education, police, fire and rescue, housing associations and charities. It is for delivery primarily within the UK with ‘some limited requirements overseas’.
Benefits cited on the agreement include access to what it refers to as the ‘best suppliers in the market’ and ‘sustainable supply chains’.
CCS did have fintech solutions in previous frameworks, particularly around data amalgamation, but they were not used significantly. Many government bodies will continue to have their own (internal) debt collection solutions.
DEBT RESOLUTION SERVICES FRAMEWORK: Key background
Global Government Fintech reported on 16 March last year on CCS’s aspirations. Here we reproduce elements of this article to provide further context.
There are various forces driving CCS’s growing interest in fintech and how the framework will operate. First is a belief that what fintechs can deliver for government has increased in the past couple of years. Second is a requirement for central government contracts to evaluate ‘social value’, as set out in what is known as PPN (Procurement Policy Note) 06/20 – this has to be applied to all new procurements from 1 January 2020.
More broadly, the move comes as studies mount up showing the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on many citizens’ personal finances.
“It is essential that we consider the impact that debt can have on citizens and their individual financial circumstances, ensuring that action is balanced to effectively recover public money without detrimentally impacting on people’s lives during a period of potentially significant financial pressure,” a CCS spokesperson told Global Government Fintech.
“The team is now developing the DRS agreement to help the public sector to work with expert suppliers to identify and manage debt, taking into account financial vulnerability and treating people fairly, in line with government fairness principles [which were introduced in 2018]”.
DEBT RESOLUTION SERVICES FRAMEWORK: Who’s on it?
The new framework has 20 lots in total. We list below the suppliers in the three of the 20 lots that appear most fintech-relevant and/or relevant to our audience. For completeness, we also state the titles of the other 17 lots.
Lot 2 – Data Solutions
- Equifax Limited
- TransUnion International UK Limited
- GB Group
- Xantura Limited
Lot 3 – Affordability and Monitoring
- Equifax Limited
- TransUnion International UK Limited
- Policy in Practice
- Paylink Solutions
- IE Hub
- Business Finance Technology Group Limited
- Qualco UK Limited
- Pastdue Credit Solutions
- Aryza UK Services
Lot 4 – Fraud, Error & Debt (‘FED’) Advisory
(Provision of advisory and consultancy services to public sector clients)
- Equifax Limited
- Arum Systems Limited
- TDX Group Limited
- Accenture (UK) Limited
- McKinsey & Company Inc. United Kingdom
- PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Lot 1 – Managed Collections; Lot 5 – Enforcement; Lot 6 – Litigation (England, Wales & Northern Ireland); Lot 7 – Litigation (Scotland); Lots 8-13 are for Auctioneers (in London – Lot 8; in the South – Lot 9; in the Midlands – Lot 10; in the North – Lot 11; in Wales – Lot 12; & in Northern Ireland – Lot 13); Lot 14 – Process Servers; Lots 15-19 are for ‘Spend Analysis and Recoveries’ *; Lot 20 – Managed Enforcement
*Spend Analysis and Recoveries (SARS) is the provision of ‘audit and recovery solutions’ for the public sector where suppliers ‘will analyse and identify any potential erroneous and overspend by public sector clients’
WEBINAR: REGISTER NOW
Global Government Fintech and our sister title Global Government Forum are organising a webinar, ‘Buying better: how innovation is helping unlock government procurement for SMEs’, on 3 February 2022 in partnership with Mastercard. Paul Allison, CCS’s head of financial services, is among the speakers.