Improving the transparency of AI use in procurement

In March 2024, the Cabinet Office published a new Procurement Policy Note (PPN) ('PPN 02/24: Improving Transparency of AI use in Procurement') to address the Government's increased adoption of Artificial Technology and provide further guidance around the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The aim of the PPN is to ensure steps are being taken to identify and manage the associated risks and opportunities involved in the increased use of AI. 

This PPN applies to all Central Government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies but other contracting authorities may also wish to apply the approach set out. 

This PPN highlights that, whilst there are benefits to suppliers using AI to develop their bids, there are a number of risks linked to using AI tools in this context and necessary steps which should be taken to ensure these risks are fully understood. The Cabinet Office has provided examples of how such risks can be mitigated e.g. by ensuring confidential information is not used by bidders when utilising AI tools and requiring suppliers to disclose if they have used AI in the creation of their tender.

The Cabinet Office encourages commercial teams to take note of the existing guidance when purchasing and using AI services. Annexed to the PPN is a helpful collation of AI guidance documents produced by the Cabinet Office, Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI), the World Economic Forum, Government Digital Service (GDS), Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, namely:

Also annexed to the PPN are examples of disclosure questions which can be added to an Invitation to Tender in order to establish whether AI has been utilised by bidders in order to produce responses to questions during the procurement process. 

Selection Questionnaire

In March 2024, a new Selection Questionnaire (SQ) was also published by the Cabinet Office (see PPN 03/24). This PPN (and therefore the new SQ) applies to all contracting authorities in England, and contracting authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland that exercise wholly or mainly reserved functions, in each case when undertaking above threshold procurements within Part 2 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR 2015)

The updates to the SQ reflect feedback received on the previous SQ (published in PPN 03/23) and subsequent policy changes. The main changes to the SQ are:

  • Updated payment related questions
  • Updated steel related questions
  • Clarity for contracting authorities on considering bids from Russian/Belarusian suppliers as set out in PPN01/22
  • Removal of references to PAS91 which has now been withdrawn by the BSI.

The new SQ can be used immediately, but must be implemented no later than 27 June 2024 (three months after publication of PPN 03/24).