Just before Christmas, the Government published a green paper on “Transforming Public Procurement”. This is designed to “overhaul their outdated public procurement regime” and coincides with the UK taking control of its own public sector procurement post Brexit. This is a green paper, so anything could change during the consultation period between now and 10th March 2021, however there are a number of elements which are likely to form the basis of future legislation and practice.
Their key objectives are to:
- Speed up and simplify public sector procurement processes.
- Place value for money at the heart of all tender processes.
- Open up opportunities for SMEs.
Part of this process is to replace current procurement procedures with three simple, modern options for Contracting Authorities:
- A new competitive flexible procedure giving buyers maximum freedom to design a procurement process that meets their needs, the needs of the market, and to negotiate and innovate to get the best from suppliers. Such opportunities must be advertised, and contract notices will be required to contain information regarding both the contracting authority and opportunity (e.g. specification, timelines and conditions for participation) as a minimum.
- An open procedure for simpler “off the shelf” competitions, where an initial selection stage is not needed.
- A limited tendering procedure that can be used only in certain situations including crisis and extreme urgency (to replace the current negotiated procedure). This will not require publication of a contract notice, so allow Contracting Authorities to act quickly and effectively.
One interesting element of this green paper is the Government’s desire to open up public procurement to a more diverse supply base to make it easier for new entrants and SMEs to win public contracts. The aim is to make bidding simpler, quicker and cheaper to participate in and information on contracts easier to find. A new policy is also planned which will allow below threshold contracts to be reserved for UK suppliers.
The Government is also looking at how tenders are evaluated and is seeking buyers to take a broad view of value for money, ensuring this includes social value (so a good time to get your social value strategy and offering in place and documented!).
Find a Tender Service
The Government has put in place the Find a Tender service which is replacing OJEU’s Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) as the official platform for publishing contract notices and award notices in the UK. Any opportunities published before 31st December 2020 will continue to their natural conclusion through OJEU, but all new opportunities will be advertised online via the new Find a Tender Service (if you use a tender notification service, they will automatically be using this new portal). Financial thresholds (i.e. contract values) for advertising tender opportunities will remain as per the current EU thresholds until 1st January 2022 for supplies and services which are:
- Central Government Contracting Authorities – £122,976
- Sub-central Contracting Authorities – £189,330
- Social & other specific services (under the current light touch regime) – £663,540
- Utilities – £3778,660
- Small lots supplies & services – £70,778
Supplier Registration System
The Government is planning to simplify the selection stage (currently the SQ) through the use of basic supplier information that would be submitted via a single digital platform so that suppliers only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement. This will avoid the current duplication of work required to complete an SQ for every bid, with the supplier instead just having to confirm that their data held on this system is correct at the time of tendering.
It is anticipated that Contracting Authorities will be able to apply criteria (e.g. a financial threshold) to this information to determine whether suppliers would be eligible to tender. Buyers will also have the tools to take account of each bidder’s past performance and exclude them if they clearly do not have the capability or capacity to deliver.
The Government is planning to create a central platform designed to provide greater transparency by ensuring that contract award notices including call offs under framework agreements disclose certain information before commencing the standstill period including:
- Bidder identities.
- The basis of the award decision and basic disclosure of the tenders submitted (implementation of this is planned to remove the current obligation for Contracting Authorities to provide feedback to unsuccessful bidders individually as they will be able to see this information transparently via the platform).
- Evaluation reports and basic evaluation disclosure information.
This platform is also planned include links to the Find a Tender Service and the aforementioned the Register of Suppliers, together with:
- Links to e-procurement systems for tendering.
- Procurement pipelines (where Contracting Authorities would be required to publish an annual pipeline of their planned procurements and commercial activity looking forward at least 18 months or longer).
- A register of contract performance (where Contracting Authorities would record and public key performance information on contracts including KPIs, contract amendments, prices and volumes)
- A central register of complaints (about public procurement practices recording the formal process of the complaint through to resolution).
- A central register of legal challenges (including challenges relating to alleged breaches of the procurement regulations and the status of these).
- A central debarment list (of organisations who are debarred from public procurement opportunities).
We very much hope that these changes will be positive for everyone involved, delivering greater transparency, and less bureaucracy and red tape.
In the meantime, if you need help with a recruitment tender, just email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01688 400319.