The Procurement Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords last week with a number of Government amendments made following detailed debate. The majority were minor or technical - but there were also some significant policy changes that are now reflected in the current version of the Bill, most notably to support economic growth and reduce burdens on contracting authorities. You can view the Bill on the Parliament.uk website. The key changes are:
- A specific duty on contracting authorities to have regard to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)
- Provisions to ensure that contracting authorities may not require:
- audited accounts to test the financial standing of bidders as part of conditions of participation, unless they are already required to have their accounts audited under the Companies Act 2006.
- insurance relating to the performance of the contract to be in place before the award of the contract - so SMEs do not need to incur unnecessary bidding costs in taking out insurance cover without the guarantee of winning the contract.
- A revision of the threshold above which contracting authorities must publish specific transparency data (key performance indicators, publication of contracts, contract change notices) from £2 million to £5 million, to reduce the burden of these requirements on contracting authorities and ensure a more proportionate approach in focussing on the larger contracts.
- An amendment to include, in the text of the Bill, an explicit duty on the Minister for the Cabinet Office to provide a central, freely accessible, digital platform.
- Finally, contracting authorities will now be required to share with all participants a redacted assessment summary of the winning bid only and send the unsuccessful bidders their own summary privately.
- First reading of The Bill in the House of Commons - 14 December 2022.
- A Second Reading debate covering the general principles of the Bill; several days of Committee, where the Bill’s provisions are debated clause by clause; followed by Report and Third Reading – January 2023
- Following Royal Assent, the necessary Statutory Instruments (regulations) will be developed - anticipated in Spring 2023
- A minimum of six months’ notice will be given before “go-live”. The existing legislation will apply until the new regime goes live and will continue to apply to procurements started under the old rules.
- Advice for contracting authorities on things to consider around managing the transition to be published in the new year (2023).
Progress on development of the Single Central Digital Platform
The central digital platform will be a single place built out from the Find a Tender platform where a new procurement ‘noticing’ regime, covering the full lifecycle of public procurement, from planning through to contract expiry, will be developed.
New notices are being built in Find a Tender. Contracting authorities will continue to be able to either create notices directly in the platform or have them automatically sent through via their eProcurement system when new activity takes place there.
eProcurement systems providers will have to make changes to support the new notices. GCF is already engaging with these companies and will also be making all technical documentation open to provide information for new companies which may want to enter this space. It is envisaged that a bespoke test environment will be available to eProcurement systems providers from Spring 2023 although the system will not be available to use until the new regime becomes active.
Further information on the Transforming Public Procurement transparency ambition can be found here.
Progress on development of L&D
Good progress is being made on developing and testing the Knowledge Drops for contracting authorities and suppliers (including SME and VCSE suppliers) and the e-learning modules for contracting authority practitioners, as outlined in the L&D offer here.
There is a developing community of Single Points of Contact (SPOCs) across the public sector, with whom GCF is working to ensure that the L&D reaches right across the target audience. 470 L&D superusers are registered. If you are procurement practitioner within a contracting authority and you would like to become a superuser, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opportunities to find out more
GCF plan to run three open-access webinars for those who want to know more about the journey through the Lords and next steps. You can register for these here:
Transforming Public Procurement Update, Friday 13 January at 10:30-11:30
Transforming Public Procurement Update, Wednesday 18 January at 14:00-15:00
Transforming Public Procurement Update, Monday 23 January at 14:30-15:30
The Transforming Public Procurement landing page is the repository for a range of information about the programme; GCF will keep adding material here. Registrations are still open for the two Procurement Reform Conferences at which Cabinet Office speakers will be covering a range of topics on 1 March (in London) and 14 March (in Manchester). The events are free for public sector attendees. For more details on the events, and to register, visit BiP Solutions’ conference website.
Keeping in touch
To receive mailings direct from GCF on updates related to transforming public procurement, please complete this contact form.