Public sector procurement: Government update
Recently, we published some of the key updates for them Cabinet Office and how this might affect public procurement. We reported that a new procurement law was to be implemented soon and what this could mean. On the 6th of December 2021, the Cabinet Office published its response to the consultation of a new procurement law, known as the Green Paper “Transforming Public Procurement”.
This response confirmed a number of things, most importantly, it confirms that the timeline for a new procurement law is going to be “2023 at the earliest”. To account for this, training will be offered throughout all sectors ahead of implementation.
The response itself does not drastically change the direction of the Green Paper, however, it did provide some useful confirmations regarding which proposals will be implemented, and which proposals are unlikely to be considered much further.
Based upon this information, we can expect the new procurement law to have these following features:
- A simplified and consolidated legislation, designed to be a single and uniform regulatory framework. Some features may be reserved for certain sectors only (such as Utilities and Defence).
- Ensure that transparency is embedded throughout the procurement lifecycle, including an obligation to publicly publish (redacted) contracts which are high value (£2m and above).
- A new Procurement Review Unit (PRU) to focus on non-compliance.
- The concept of “public good” will be framed as an objective of maximising the “public benefit” to support wider consideration of social value benefits, and address concerns about any potential conflict with local priorities. Similarly, value for money and integrity will be statutory objectives.
- Strengthen the approach towards excluding suppliers who “pose an unacceptable risk to public confidence in procurement, effective competition for contracts, reliable delivery, and protection of the public, the environment, public funds or the rights of employees”.
- Retain flexibility for certain services where ‘user choice’ is an important factor (e.g., care contracts).
- What is known as the ‘Light Touch Regime’, for contracts not considered to be of cross-border interest with the EU, to remain so as to provide greater flexibility for those contracts.
- Aim to implement a system which resolves disputes faster, but with no cap on the level of damage which could be claimed for a breached procurement.
- A system to address supply chain issues such as provisions where sub-contractors may directly complain to the ‘buyer’ where there they are not being paid on time by the main contractor.
While we are still waiting for the first introduction of this proposed law, the Government have stated that:
“The new regime will be simpler, fairer, more flexible and competitive and will be one of the most transparent regimes in the world. It will make it easier for small businesses and social enterprises to win public sector contracts. It will support innovation and reduce costs for both suppliers and the public sector.”
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