Procurement Update December 2020

Procurement has suddenly become very interesting, in the run-up to the end of the Transition period on 31st December.

Whether you are a buyer or a supplier, there has been a small flurry of information relating to public procurement as we head into 2021. Some of this means change in certain areas, depending on who you are, where you’re located and what you buy or sell.

On 10 December the ball started rolling with a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) from the UK Government that confirmed changes to the advertising of contracts.

As we have advised in previous blogs and webinars from 11pm on 31st December 2020 new procurement advertisements will require to be sent to the Find a Tender Service, as the OJEU will no longer accept advertisements from UK buyers.

However, for procurements that have been advertised in OJEU before the cut-off, any subsequent notices, such as award notices, will continue to be sent to OJEU for publication.

For buyers that are BiP customers this isn’t an issue, as our Delta eSourcing platform has been ‘parallel publishing’ to both OJEU and the FTS portal for quite some time, so when the switch occurs it will be seamless for Delta users. However, if you aren’t using Delta, it is essential that you seek assurance from your current eSender that they will be ready.

Likewise, for suppliers using BiP services, such as Tracker and Supply2Gov, there will be no visible change and information will continue to be received just as at present.

Another interesting issue highlighted in the FAQs to the 10 December PPN relates to the recognition of European professional or trade registers, which may be an issue for some suppliers.

Simply put, for procurements started on or after 1st January 2021, the requirement for a business to be enrolled in one of the professional or trade registers kept in their Member State will be removed as this would not be appropriate, although there is always the option for the public sector to choose to recognise those registers.

On 15 December, the Cabinet Office published its long-awaited Green Paper on public procurement, “Transforming Public Procurement”,  which sets out its vision for procurement in the future.

There are too many variants to cover in this blog, but some of the key themes include possible changes to over 350 regulations governing public procurement and integrating the current regulations into a single, uniform framework.

It is also proposed that the current procedures could be replaced by three simple, modern procedures:

  • a new flexible procedure that gives buyers freedom to negotiate and innovate to get the best from the private, charity and social enterprise sectors.
  • an open procedure that buyers can use for simpler, ‘off the shelf’ competitions.
  • a limited tendering procedure that buyers can use in certain circumstances, such as in crisis or extreme urgency.

There is also the proposal to remove the current Light Touch Regime by applying the rules applicable to other contracts to services currently subject to this process.

Another proposal, which will certainly find favour with suppliers, is for the creation of a single digital platform for supplier registration, that ensures suppliers only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement.

From a buying authority’s perspective, one proposal that many will find desirable is that Cabinet Office want to allow buyers to include criteria that go beyond the subject matter of the contract and encourage suppliers to operate in a way that positively contributes to economic, social and environmental outcomes.

15 December also saw the publication of another Procurement Policy Note (PPN), this time covering a subject we have previously raised, on the reserving of below threshold procurements.

This PPN specifically applies to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (known as In-Scope Bodies) at this time but there is likely to be a roll-out to the general public sector at some future point, one has to assume, as other contracting authorities are encouraged to apply the principles outlined.

There are two key parts to the PPN, namely the option to reserve the procurement by supplier location and to reserve the procurement for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs).

If reserving a procurement by supplier location, the contracting authority would be able to run a competition and specify that only suppliers located in a geographical area can bid.

This could be UK-wide, or where appropriate, by county to tackle economic inequality and support local recruitment, training, skills and investment.

In reserving the procurement for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs), the contracting authority would be able to run a competition and specify that only SMEs and VCSEs can bid.

All these changes and suggestions have come from the UK Government and, at this time, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not published anything similar. Of course, we will keep everyone informed if they do so.

We will produce a comprehensive briefing on the Green Paper on public procurement, “Transforming Public Procurement”, early in the New Year and will follow that up with webinars in January.

To register for the webinars, simply click here.