In these uncertain times, public sector authorities may need to procure goods, services and works with extreme urgency. Authorities are permitted to do this using Regulation 32(2)(c) under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
On 18 March 2020, the UK Cabinet Office released a Procurement Policy Note (PPN) giving information and guidance on the public procurement regulations in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
We explain what Regulation 32 is and how it affects public sector procurement during this time.
What is Regulation 32?
Buyers can implement Regulation 32 in specific cases and circumstances. Using the regulation, contracting authorities may award public contracts by a negotiated procedure without prior publication.
Regulation 32 can be used when “for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable by the contracting authority, the time limits for the open or restricted procedures or competitive procedures with negotiation cannot be complied with” – which pertains to the current Coronavirus crisis.
Procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic
During this time, if a public sector organisation has an urgent requirement for goods, services or works due to COVID-19, they must procure this requirement under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. As stated in the Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note, accelerated procurement measures can include:
- direct award due to extreme urgency
- direct award due to the absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights
- call off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system
- call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales
- extending or modifying a contract during its term
Regulation 32 deals with direct award due to extreme urgency or direct award due to the absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights.
Payment to suppliers
Following this recent PPN an action note was released concerning suppliers under contract to the public sector who may find themselves in difficulty during this time. The note states that:
“Contracting authorities must act now to ensure suppliers at risk are in a position to resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over.”
As part of this response, public sector organisations must “urgently review their contract portfolio and inform suppliers who they believe are at risk that they will continue to be paid as normal (even if service delivery is disrupted or temporarily suspended) until at least the end of June” and ensure that invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately on receipt in order to maintain cash flow in the supply chain and protect jobs.
How you can help
If your business wants to support the public sector during this difficult time, it is important that you remain on the lookout for all the latest contract announcements.
While not all new public sector contracts will be published, you cannot afford to miss them when they are. We recommend including ‘COVID-19’ in your keywords to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities that do appear in response to the current pandemic.
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