Onwurah identified a lack of skills within the civil service as the "key issue" holding back wider use of SMEs for government work.
Unilink's CEO Francis Toye agreed, saying: "Government doesn't know how to handle innovation. Procurement people often feel reluctant to buy anything unless they are 100 percent informed about it."
A managing director explained: "A big part of the problem is that much of the public sector's expertise has been transferred into SIs. It's unpicking this that is the hardest part and getting the management layer to work."
A CEO said: "The government's ability to procure and manage has deteriorated over the years. Unless the government is prepared to properly invest in commercial skills, it's hard to see how they'll ever get value for money from IT.
"There is currently a lack of intelligent purchasing or intelligent supplier management. It costs money."
An SME representative said: "There is an excessive and unjustifiable level of risk aversion in government procurement. It is harder work going beyond buying from a one stop shop so we urgently need to improve buyer skills."
However a chief executive suggested that risk aversion may be used as an excuse. She said: "Risk aversion is a wonderful barrier to put up. A lot of public sector procurement hides behind risk, as it allows you to avoid changing. Any company will tell you, risk genuinely articulated is usually not an issue."
Labour's 'Digital Government' review formally kicked off in March this year, and the deadline for submissions is 30 May. The consultation will help to forum the party's policies ahead of next year's general election. Labour will hold a national policy forum in mid-July and its conference will be held in September.
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