New plans to radically reform public procurement regulations have been published in the Green Paper ‘Transforming public procurement‘ (Dec 2020, CP 353).
The end of the Transition Period offers an “historic opportunity to overhaul our outdated public procurement regime,” the Green Paper says, and calls for the opening up public procurement to a more diverse supply base so that it is easier for new entrants such as small businesses, social enterprises and voluntary and charitable organisations to compete and win public contracts.
Yes, we have heard this before, and we will have to wait to see how these proposals actually play out in practical terms. However, if fully implemented, the Green Paper lays out changes in procurement legislation that would:
- Sweep aside over 300 individual rules and introduce a single unified rule book.
- Overhaul numerous complex procedures and replace them with three simple modern procedures.
- Allow more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to work together and innovate.
- Allow buyers to include the wider social benefits of a supplier when assessing who to award a contract to.
- Give buyers the power to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance and exclude suppliers who have failed to deliver in the past.
- Establish a new unit to oversee public procurement with powers to improve commercial skills of public sector contractors.
- Introduce a single digital platform for registering contracts.
The proposed new rules will allow the public sector to ‘buy British’ for contracts not subject to international trade rules and ‘reserve’ public works contracts under £4.7m and goods and services contracts under £122k for small businesses, voluntary, community and social enterprises, or to bidders in specific geographical areas. (UPDATE 21/12/20: Further government guidance on the ‘reserving’ of contracts has just been issued — Policy Note PN 11/20 — and Andrew Millcross on Anthony Collins Solicitors’ blog makes interesting observations this.)
The Green Paper also seems to introduce a slightly broader interpretation of social value: “When public bodies are considering how social value benefits can be delivered through their contracts,” the press statement says, “the new rules will make it possible for them to consider full value to society and not just the public body undertaking the procurement. This means more, wider opportunities to deliver social value through public contracts.”
The Green Paper is subject to public consultation until 10th March 2021.
→ There is extensive commentary on the proposals over on the How to Crack a Nut blog (which is written by a Professor of Economic Law and member of the European Procurement Law Group).