Government to overhaul procurement system

11/05/2021
Dominic Browne

The Government plans to overhaul public procurement and replace it with 'three simple, modern procedures' to give the public sector more scope to negotiate with potential suppliers to deliver innovative solutions.

Officials highlighted that there are currently over 350 different procurement regulations spread over different regimes but the Procurement Bill unveiled at the Queen's Speech, would consolidate these into a single uniform regime.

The Bill aims to make the system more accessible for new entrants - including small businesses and voluntary, charitable and social enterprises - to compete for and win public contracts.

The Bill would:

  • Enshrine in law the principles of public procurement such as: value for money, public benefit, transparency, integrity, fair treatment of suppliers and nondiscrimination.
  • Require buyers to have regard to the Government’s strategic priorities for public procurement as set out in a new National Procurement Policy Statement.
  • Introduce procurement processes that allow contracting authorities to buy at pace, for serious situations that are declared a crisis, with strengthened safeguards for transparency.
  • Establish a single data platform for supplier registration that ensures suppliers only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement.
  • Tackle unacceptable behaviour such as supplier fraud through new exclusion rules and giving buyers the tools to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance.
  • Reform the process for challenging procurement decisions to speed up the review system and make it more accessible and capping the level of damages available to bidders in order to reduce the attractiveness of speculative claims.

The Government will also publish the first National Procurement Policy Statement (NPPS), setting out strategic national priorities for public procurement.

As the UK leaves the European procurement system, officials pledged that procurement data will be published 'in a standard, open format, so that it is more accessible to anyone'.

In December 2020, the Government confirmed that below-threshold contracts can be reserved for UK suppliers and/or small suppliers. This applies to supplies and services contracts valued below £122,976 and works contracts below £4,733,252.

Alongside this, a Subsidy Control Bill that will implement a domestic UK subsidy control regime that reflects our strategic interests and national circumstances.

The Government has also promised to publish a Levelling Up White Paper later this year, setting out policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunities in all parts of the UK.

Policies under the governments programme are set to be supported by cash from the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB), which will launch later in the spring and was described as 'central to delivering these ambitions' by officials under the Queen's Speech briefing.

Headquartered in Leeds, the bank will be able to deploy £12bn of equity and debt capital and £10bn of guarantees and is expected to support more than £40bn of infrastructure investment overall.

Director of external affairs for the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) Marie-Claude Hemming said: 'The UK Government’s legislative agenda shows a clear commitment to boosting the UK’s recovery from COVID-19 through investing in infrastructure and skills. We welcome news that the Government will take steps to simplify procurement in the public sector and look forward to working with all stakeholders to reform this system to the ultimate benefit of the UK taxpayer.

'As part of this, we hope the Government will consider the findings of Professor David Mosey’s independent review of frameworks. As the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we invest in the people and projects that will enable us to build back better, so that we can deliver a high-growth economy and sustainable recovery for businesses and communities in all parts of the UK.'

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