As 2021 draws to a close, we can report on a number of interesting developments relevant to anyone involved in public procurement in the UK. Whether you’re at the coalface organising a public tendering procedure or are a supplier bidding for a contract, you might want to find out more below.
Transforming Public Procurement: the Government response to consultation on the Green Paper
The Government’s response to its earlier consultation on the Transforming Government Procurement Green Paper has been published. The Green Paper and response to the consultation set out the possible future direction of public procurement post-Brexit, and the consultation response also provides potential clues as to the possible implementation timeline.
The response sets out data summarising the feedback received to the consultation, and where it came from – together with the government’s response to the feedback. It takes each question which was asked as part of the consultation, summarises the responses, and responds in turn to the feedback. Some of the questions are grouped by topic area for this purpose – for example, questions 8 to 11 which look at innovation. The response may provide an early indication as to the extent to which the government plans to carry through to implementation the views posited by the response. However, these should not be regarded as final: the actual direction of travel could change as the new procurement regime takes shape over the coming months.
What about timing? In short: no new regime is likely during 2022. The government intends to provide six months’ notice of a go-live, once the new legislative framework is ready. Expect nothing to happen straight away: timescales around the process of drawing up the new rules, and the necessary gearing up, mean that the new regime is (and we quote) “unlikely to come into force until 2023 at the earliest”.
Want to find a contract? It should be on Contracts Finder!
November also saw Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 09/21 published. This PPN applies immediately, and gives consolidated guidance for all authorities (together with a list of specific authorities who are exempt from some of the PPN’s requirements) on publishing contract advertisements and awards on Contracts Finder.
PPN09/21 replaces PPN07/21, which also covered the requirement to publish information about contract opportunities and awards (over certain value thresholds) on Contracts Finder. That PPN dates only from June this year, so why a new PPN now? Well, PPN09/21 clarifies that NHS Foundation Trusts should follow the same publication value thresholds as central government authorities (£10,000+), but need only publish the minimum information required by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, and within the 90-day timescale. There is no change to the publication requirements for other contracting authorities as had been set out in PPN 07/21.
PPN09/21 also includes plenty of FAQs on the situations in which the requirements apply, and a flowchart for calculating publication timescales.
Are you a small & medium-sized enterprise (SME) looking to win government work? Check this out!
December saw the publication of an SME Selling to Government guide to assist SMEs in bidding for and winning government contracts.
The guide includes advice for SMEs on where to find opportunities through Contracts Finder and Find a Tender (FTS) and what payment terms to expect. It also includes top tips for SMEs when tendering, and provides signposts to further support for SMEs.
It is particularly handy for SMEs in explaining what government buyers look out for – and what criteria they apply – when evaluating tenders for public contracts. It includes tips to help suppliers make sure their bids answer the questions asked, respond to the criteria set, and are on point.
It explains the benefits of getting appointed to frameworks and dynamic purchasing systems, and how these tools work.
It also points out the added flexibility (following Brexit) for lower-value government contracts to be reserved for bidders based in a specific region, and for bidders who are SMEs and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs). It points to Contracts Finder as the place to go to find details of who can bid, and how.
Accessing government contracting opportunities can be a daunting prospect for many SMEs, and many may see the potential for successful tendering in this arena as limited – especially if an SME senses that it is up against large businesses who are more amply resourced or are well-accustomed to bidding. The tone of the guide is friendly, its content accessible, and its publication to be welcomed.
If you have any questions, or for further information, please contact Christopher Brennan.
About the author(s)
Chris is a leading lawyer in public procurement. He brings nearly two decades of experience in procurement across diverse sectors including central and local government, construction, developments and infrastructure, defence, health, education, the regulated industries and utilities.