THE NEW Procurement Bill for public contracts is being announced as a simpler and more flexible, commercial system.
The Government says the public procurement process will replace the “current bureaucratic and process-driven EU regime” and open it up new entrants such as small businesses and social enterprises so that they can compete for and win more public contracts.
It says the main benefits of the Bill include taking back control of public money replacing the EU’s four regimes for procurement with a single regime for all product procurement, reducing administrative costs and driving up competition.
At some £300 billion, public procurement accounts for around a third of all public expenditure every year and is the largest area of public spending.
The Bill also aims to slash red tape and drive innovation. By removing more than 350 rules governing public spending in the EU, it will not only reduce costs for businesses and the public sector, but also drive innovation by allowing buyers to tailor procurement to their exact needs, building in new stages such as demonstrations and testing prototypes.
The Bill will create a single digital platform for suppliers to register their details that can be used for all bids, while a single central transparency platform will allow suppliers to see all opportunities in once place. The Government says this will accelerate spending with SMEs, who will also benefit from prompt payment terms on a much broader range of contracts.
Value for money will be the highest priority in procurement, and the Bill will also require buyers to take account of national strategic priorities such as job creation potential, improving supplier resilience and tackling climate change. Buyers will also be able to reserve competitions for contracts below a certain threshold for UK suppliers, SMEs and social enterprises.
New exclusions frameworks will make it easier to exclude suppliers who have underperformed on other contracts. It will also create a new ‘debarment register’, accessible to all public sector organisations, which will list companies who should be excluded from contracts.
The Bill includes provisions to exclude suppliers from defence and security tenders if they present a risk to national security, secure value for money, as well as providing flexibility for contracts to be upgraded to refresh technology and avoid gaps in capability.
The Government says the Bill will deliver a stepchange in transparency and openness, with notices mandated for direct awards and publication requirements extended from planning to termination, including contract performance.
A single central platform for contract data will give everyone access to procurement information, strengthening the new Procurement Review Unit’s ability to investigate concerns around both awards and transparency.
Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Freeing businesses from the straightjacket of complicated rules and red tape was one of the key reasons that the British public voted to leave the EU.
“Now that we’re out, we can create a simpler and more transparent system that promotes competition among businesses and reassures taxpayers that every penny of their money is well spent.”
The Bill will provide greater flexibility for buyers and allow more opportunities to negotiate with suppliers.
A new competition processes for emergency buying will be introduced, designed to reduce reliance on direct awards while retaining the ability to act at pace in times of crisis.
The new procurement regime is unlikely to come into force until 2023 at the earliest.