Given that annual public expenditure on goods and services routinely exceeds £206 billion per year, the risks and opportunities to deliver value for money for the taxpayer merits ongoing focus by all public authorities. This good practice guidance reflects upon findings and recommendations drawn from 209 reports concerning 350 commercial arrangements that it has published over the past 20 years – including recent examinations of commercial activities triggered in response to the global pandemic.

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The ‘commercial lifecycle’ means the entire process starting with the identification of a requirement that may be delivered by a supplier to government through to the selection and appointment process, contract management activity, and ending with contract termination or transition to alternative arrangements.

This is a revised and condensed edition of commercial good practice guidance that we have updated regularly since 2008 and most recently in 2017. It remains essential reading for policy and commercial staff involved at all levels of public procurement and commercial activities – including senior leaders and non-executive board members of public authorities.

The guidance is presented in 10 sections, addressing both strategic and procedural considerations. We provide a definition for each section, list our expectations based on the lessons we have drawn from our reports, and give our view as to what needs to improve. Each section is also supported by case studies from our reviews to provide relevant context.