Public procurement is set for development, with the new Procurement Bill currently making its way through parliament. The post-Brexit reforms focus on creating a single regime for all public procurement, aiming for more accountability, stimulating supplier resilience, and offering wider socio-economic benefits. Alex Minett, Head of Products and Markets at CHAS, looks at five key factors to understand.
- Public procurement will be streamlined and more transparent
One of the key goals of the bill is to create a fully transparent procurement system via a single digital platform. The new platform will build upon the current Find a Tender service and will ensure there is transparency across the five key stages of procurement: planning, tender, award, contract and implementation.
The platform will offer a breadth of information, including details on current and future public sector opportunities and ‘pipeline’ work. Users can access additional information, such as performance data on how finished projects completed, with the publication of final schedules and budgets against original proposals.
Most helpful for suppliers, a single ‘tell us once’ register means multiple bids can be made without starting from scratch for each application.
- There will be more opportunities for SMEs
Recent government figures show record spending through SMEs, either directly or through their supply chains, and the bill aims to accelerate this growth. Efforts to simplify the application process combines with the new procurement platform will help smaller companies who are inexperienced in tendering for public contracts.
The focus on SMEs can be linked to the government’s ‘levelling up’ initiative, which aims to spread opportunity more equally. It also taps into the social value, equality and climate change agendas with the drive to ‘buy local’ impacting communities through local economic growth, employment, and reduced carbon emissions. Demonstrating that they are paying attention to these issues within their own companies and their supply chains will be advantageous to suppliers who want to boost their chances of bid success.
- Expect stricter regulation
The drive to eliminate fraud and corruption from public procurement inevitably calls for tight regulation. This will include supplier KPIs at the start of contracts to measure performance and ensure suppliers are held accountable for their promises.
There will also be greater due diligence required for supply chains and a public name and shame register for contractors who have failures, particularly regarding issues such as modern slavery, poor performance and insolvency. The criteria for removal from the ‘debarment list’ is still to be clarified but will likely require significant evidence of change. Contractors will need to look at all their risks to ensure they don’t meet any exclusion grounds.
- A move from MEAT to MAT
The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 has made great strides since its inception in 2012, with public spending increasingly looking towards the importance of issues such as quality and sustainability, as opposed to cost and price alone. However, under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, tender evaluation is still based on the position of MEAT (the most economically advantageous tender), with a cost-effectiveness approach as the main driver.
The new Procurement Bill will signal a move from MEAT to MAT (most advantageous tender). While this doesn’t significantly change the reasoning behind tender evaluations – financial cost is always going to be a big factor when it comes to public money – it does reinforce the message around the wider benefits a bid can have on the environment, local community and society. The implication being there should be even more weighty consideration to these issues during the decision-making process than there has been previously.
A framework to apply financial proxies to various social value factors aligned to best practice has been developed to standardise the tricky issue of how social value is measured. Companies will soon be able to take advantage of CHAS’s social value assessment to evidence accreditation in this area to support their tender proposals.
- Greater emphasis on accreditation
While the new bill is designed to stimulate a wealth of opportunities for businesses large and small, the stricter regulations and increased transparency means it will be crucial for companies to get it right first time to avoid a potential public blacklisting.
Beneficially, the bill is set to mandate the use of procurement policy notes (PPNs) and an imminent update to Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 08/16 may even obligate undertaking the Common Assessment Standard for all contractors bidding for public sector works. As an industry-led pre-qualification system covering a range of compliance topics from health and safety to modern slavery and corruption, the Common Assessment Standard accreditation will help mitigate many risks that could lead to a company ending up on the debarment register.
For companies looking to further align themselves with some of the core themes of focus in the bill, additional accreditation in areas such as Social Value and Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, such as the CHAS Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) accreditation, will demonstrate a robust commitment to these issues and may bolster chances of bid success.
To find out more about how CHAS can help your business, visit www.chas.co.uk or call 0345 521 9111.
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