Regulatory procurement changes: relief or anxiety?


By Hans Mohammed, advisor, CIPFA Procurement and Commissioning Network

The new EU Public Procurement and Concession Directives, published in the Official Journal during April 2014, means that the UK, like other EU member states, now have two years to implement the Directives into national law.

The Cabinet Office is currently busy trying to get the draft UK Regulations and prior consultations underway with prospective implementation before the next election. The Scottish Government will similarly have a consultation round later this year with a view to bringing forward new Regulations in 2015. This timetable will allow work on transposing the Directives to be co-ordinated with work needed to develop secondary legislation or statutory guidance which may arise from the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, enacted in May this year.

The objectives of the Directives is to simplify public procurement, improve access to public contracts for small and medium-sized enterprises and codify existing ECJ case-law into practice - welcome news for  practitioners and in-house legal advisors. One particular aspect that the new provisions puts to an end is the distinction between Part ‘A’ and ‘B’ Services, which has caused much consternation over the years in favour of a new grouping between "services in general" and "social and other specific services".

The threshold for social and other specific services has increased to EUR 750.000 (Approx. £634,000). Tenders for social and other specific services exceeding this threshold must be published either by means of a contract notice or a prior information/periodic indicative notice. National rules will give us further details on how this is to be operated in practice.

Other key provisions include:

  • introduction of the European Single Procurement Document
  • competitive dialogue with negotiation
  • a new "Innovation Partnership" procedure, which could stimulate commercial partnership working between public/private sector
  • inclusion of life-cycle costing, environmental and/or social aspects in the award criteria
  • reserving contracts to a staff mutual for a period of three years
  • new rules relating to conflicts of interest and prior engagement with suppliers
  • greater and more flexible use of electronic catalogues and modification to the dynamic purchasing system – this is expected to be widely used from next year.

A significant amount of the changes and codification of case law will herald a new way of working that is much needed, especially as many public sector organisations start to respond to national pressures to maximise efficiencies and promote greater collaboration with other public bodies. However, there are a number of provisions which may turn out to be difficult to implement in practice given the complexities of UK public procurement.

The CIPFA Procurement & Commissioning Network will be supporting public sector organisations implementing the new rules and will feature:

  • the Running Compliant Tender Processes workshops, on 7 October 2014, London and 9 October 2014, Leeds
  • an update from the Cabinet Office at the Procurement Summit on 14 October 2014.