Now that the UK is no longer part of the EU, the Conservative Government has taken the opportunity to review current procurement practices, as required under the Public Contract Regulations 2015.
As part of this procurement reform, consultation has taken place in the green paper Transforming Public Procurement and amendments to current rules and practices have now been outlined, ready to be embedded within English public sector procurement practice over the coming years, in new legislation. The Cabinet Office is working closely with the devolved administrations regarding the new regime and their provisions.
In December 2021, the Cabinet Office published their response to the Transforming Public Procurement consultation (full response here).
Key Points from the Cabinet Office’s response to the consultation include:
- The aim is to develop procurement that better meets the UK’s needs. One of the ways that this will be measured and achieved is through the establishment of the Procurement Review Unit. This unit will continue the work of the current Public Procurement Review Service – but will focus upon addressing systemic or institutional breaches of the procurement regulations, overseeing procurements that are subject to the new regime.
- Procurement rules will be consolidated, in order to simplify and standardise their application, removing anomalies and discrepancies that exist in the current rules, for example in relation to the utilities, defence and security sectors of the current regulations. The structure of this consolidated approach is intended to have a similar look and feel to existing regulations in its application, scope and definitions. Language is also intended to be simpler and clearer.
- Three new procedures, within the rules, will help to modernise public sector procurement and make its application more fit for purpose. These new procedures are: “flexible competitive”, “open” and “limited tender procedure”. The Government will provide guidance and templates on their use and application. The intention is that the open procedure will continue to be used for “off the shelf” straight forward procurements; the flexible competitive procedure shall give“buyers freedom to negotiate and innovate to get the best from the private, charity and social enterprise sectors”. The limited tendering procedure will be used in specific circumstances, such as extreme urgency. “Contracting authorities will be obliged to set out how the procurement process is to function, and this will be laid out in a tender notice.”
- To help ensure that the right contract is awarded to the right supplier, MEAT (most economically advantageous tender) becomes MAT (most advantageous tender). Removing the emphasis of economics from the calculation of the most advantageous tenders, gives buyers the scope to consider other factors, including for example Social Value, sustainability and innovation.
- Open and closed frameworks will be used. Closed frameworks will be closed to new entrants, but open frameworks will permit new joiners during their term (as DPS’s do now). Open frameworks will have up to an 8 year term.
- There will be a “central register of commercial tools will provide a list of frameworks and Dynamic Markets. Bringing greater transparency to the frameworks available to contracting authorities should reduce the current duplication of frameworks”
- A single supplier database will be developed, upon which suppliers will register their standard information. This will be owned and managed by the Cabinet Office.
- Greater transparency will be embedded through a number of measures, these will include “requiring all contracting authorities to implement the Open Contracting Data Standard so that data across the public sector can be shared and analysed at contract and category level” and also the establishing of “a single digital platform for supplier registration that ensures businesses only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement”.
- Preventing payment delays through guidance measures and provision of evidence.
The above points are just some highlights of the changes we believe our clients (current and future) will want to understand when tendering for public sector contracts in the not too distant future. The full response to consultation paper outlines in detail the questions considered, the summary of responses to those questions by those that participated in the consultation, and also the government’s response to those questions, taking into consideration the consultation responses. Please find the full document here for further reading.
If you would like any assistance in understanding how these changes may affect your future tendering, please do not hesitate to get in touch. We have time to prepare for these updates, as it is anticipated that these changes will not take effect until 2023.