Competition and Markets Authority produces cartel tool

Software uses tender data to produce ‘suspicion score’ of collusion between suppliers

The UK’s competition regulator has released a software product to help procurement teams spot when they are potentially dealing with a cartel.

Man in shadow with laptopNamed Screening for Cartels, it has been developed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), with the Spend Network, which already produces an open data tool for the analysis of public purchasing.

They have identified and prioritised indicators of cartels with algorithms that can test for suspicious signs in three key areas: the number and pattern of bidders, pricing patterns, and document origin with submissions that look as if they are not serious. The CMA said any of these could be a sign of bid rigging.

The new tool works by feeding a series of documents into its file structure: the invitation to tender, bid submissions from all bidders, the identity of the winner; and a ‘bidinfo’ file for the pricing information in each bid. It brings together and weights the data against each test to indicate whether a bid passes or fails on each point and produces a ‘suspicion score’.

Weighting factor

The weighting of each test and thresholds for pass or failure can be adjusted to reflect the user’s knowledge of the market and the value they place on each test.

The CMA said that if the tool finds nothing the user can be more confident that suppliers are not colluding together. It also asked that anyone shares evidence of collusion with its cartels hotline.

Screening for Cartels is available for free downloads on GitHub and is digitally signed with Microsoft Authentication certification.

“We are currently working with the Government Digital Service to get further security assurance for the tool and its software,” the CMA said. “This should overcome most firewall and internal security issues.”

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