Following several months of negotiations, the Procurement Reform Bill has now been introduced in Parliament. Expected to go live in mid-2023, the bill now requires secondary legislation to bring certain elements and the wider plan into effect, after which it will also have to be granted Royal Assent. This Bill will reform the existing EU Procurement Rules, which, after Brexit, are no longer valid within the UK.
The Transforming Public Procurement programme aims to improve the regulation of public procurement in order to create a simpler and more flexible system for users. The changes created by this new bill will apply to the public sector as a whole; including central and local government and public sector organisations such as the NHS etc. These changes will be applied across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, however they will not affect Scotland, whose policies surrounding procurement legislation remain a devolved matter.
At around £300 billion, public procurement accounts for around a third of all public expenditure each year and is the largest area of public spending; thus a key area where getting the most for your money is critical. Value for money is a key driving factor for the changes to regulations, with new, more competitive, yet simplified procedures aimed at allowing government to spend more with SMEs.
Greater flexibility will allow buyers to have more opportunity to negotiate directly with suppliers by creating what is being called a “competitive flexible procedure”. This will ensure, for the first time, that contracting authorities can design a competition to best suit the particular needs of their contract and market. The Bill will enshrine into law the basic objectives of public procurement; delivering value for money, maximising public benefit and acting with integrity.
Expected Regulation Changes
Whilst the Procurement Reform Bill has not yet been formally passed through Parliament, there are several areas where changes to procurement can be expected.
Transparency remains a key focus within this new Bill, with a single, central platform for all procurement information being a new initiative. This aims to ensure access for all and strengthen the new Procurement Review Unit’s ability to investigate concerns surrounding both transparency and contract awards. Featuring information for all tenders, including pipeline opportunities and spend, this single system will also have a dedicated area of the publication of Supplier performance, meaning that this could impact supplier references moving forward.
Terminology changes are also expected, with “Contract Notices” now being advertised as “Tender Notices”, and new notice types to cover the full life cycle of a contract. The Bill will also include provisions to exclude suppliers from defence and security tenders, should they be deemed to present a risk to national security.
Direct Awards of contracts could be possible, if seen to be “in the public interest” – however this may be a section of the Bill that faces some scrutiny.
The Procurement Reform Bill, whilst looking to overhaul public sector procurement, will still maintain compliance with international obligations, including the Agreement on Government Procurement from the World Trade Organisation, which guarantees British businesses access to £1.3 trillion in public sector procurement opportunities oversees.
How Could These Changes Affect Your Business?
At a glance, there are likely to be several changes which could become apparent to businesses once this Bill is formally accepted and written into law. Primarily, the overall look and feel of the tenders themselves could change somewhat, however, from the information available, it looks like many of the questions will remain the same.
Perhaps, most conveniently, there will now be a single registration service for supplier, a “one stop shop”, operating on a “tell us once” style system to avoid unnecessary administrative headaches with multiple portal spaces.
Maintaining quality of works will become an even greater focus, as it may now become much easier for contracting authorities to reject bids from suppliers who pose risks through threats such as poor previous performance. These incidents will become much more easily accessible for potential buyers to view, thus the need to provide exceptional service and value for money is even more critical.
The way businesses are alerted to upcoming tenders is likely to change too, with external platforms no longer being the space where contract notices are hosted. This may however provide the benefit of ease, with all opportunities being advertised in a single space for public sector procurement.
Buyers requesting the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT) will remain, however a renewed emphasis may be places on Most Advantageous Tenders (MATs) too, meaning buyers can set their priorities to other areas, such as innovation, when assessing a tender.
How can Thornton & Lowe support you to navigate these changes?
There are several areas where Thornton & Lowe can provide support to ensure you are in the best position to navigate any future changes to procurement regulations. These regulation changes are coming in to place to support SMEs, making tendering more accessible and simplifying existing systems.
We offer expert bid writing and bid training services, in order to support on both the writing of bids and upskilling your team to ensure they are ready to bid successfully. Understanding the latest advancements in procurement best practice could be the ideal way to begin preparations for the release of new opportunities. Equipping yourself and your team with this key knowledge will ensure you approach all new tenders with clarity and confidence moving forward.
Our team of highly experienced bid writers can assist you to complete tenders and ensure the key evidence you may require is in place. Thornton & Lowe can help you add significant value to your offering, showcasing your services to the best of your abilities in order to win work.
Speak with a Bid Writing expert today