Tuesday, 23 February 2021

IChemE - What Engineers Need to Know about Contracts - 3/4 March 2021

 The first 2021 running of What Engineers Need to know about Contracts is next week, and we still have spaces (the joy of running courses on line!).

Let's hope that we might even be able to have the second event as a face to face one!


Dates are 3/4 March 2021 (online - 2x 1/2 days)

and 9/10 August 2021 - which might (just might)  be face to face in Rugby.  But don't hold your breath.


Full details are here.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Transparency in public procurement

 As has been recently covered in the press, the government broke the law by not reporting details of its contracts for PPE in a timely manner.


A good analysis of the importance of this has been written by David Allen Green here.

All I will add is that the concept of transparency is really at the heart of public accountability, and is not merely some bureaucratic nicety as the government appears to have argued.  Hopefully, this was a hangover from the political adviser who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in demonstrating that the law, standards and social norms did not apply to him. (You know who I mean)  The effort and money spent in defending a case where the government was clearly and admittedly in the wrong, is not encouraging.

In a time of crisis it is important that the government and public sector keep the trust of the population.  Probably even more than in normal times.  I hope that is understood by the government.


Monday, 4 January 2021

Find a Tender Service (UK public sector tenders)

 The new Find a Tender Service is up and online - you can find it here.  This replaces the OJEU website for tenders with a value above the relevant threshold, i.e. the larger public sector tenders.  Note that any tender process that started on OJEU will be completed on OJEU and follow EU procurement rules.  Just a reminder - the threshold values themselves have not changed this year - the current levels apply for 2020/1.


They appear to be calling it FTS, not FATS (as I rather hoped).  It is not the easiest thing to find, but hopefully will be further up the listings on Google when it is bedded in a bit.


I have registered, and the process is fairly painless (not completely), and it IS linked to Contract Finder  - which makes a lot of sense but was not guaranteed.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

2021 and all that

 Merry Christmas and let's hope for a much better new year.

Roll on 2021.

See you on the other side.

Friday, 18 December 2020

2021 IChemE What Engineers Need to Know about Contracts

 This course seems to be increasingly popular, and we have 2 dates in the diary already for 2021.  More may be added if there is enough demand (and possibly some other courses that I shall present).


Dates are 3/4 March 2021 (online - 2x 1/2 days)

and 9/10 August 2021 - which might (just might) even be face to face in Rugby.  But don't hold your breath.


Full details are here.


Merry Christmas folks.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Another PPN - UK Public Policy Notice PPN11/20 - Reserving Below Threshold Procurements

 One that I missed but Eddie Regan at BIP Solutions didnt...

We know something of the possible future for UK Public Procurement thanks to the Green Paper.  One element of that is being adopted from 1/1/21 - which is that procurements below the thresholds ;

● Reserve the procurement by supplier location, AND/OR

● Reserve the procurement for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) / Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs) -

Thresholds are ;

Supplies & Services - £122,976 

Works - £4,733,252


The second one of these extends the provision in the PCR 2015 for VCSEs to include SMEs and I have few problems with that.  The provisions are currently for central government only, but will surely be extended to Local Authorities who will welcome it.


The first provision though worries me.  In several ways.

Firstly, there is the effect on the Union - this is UK legislation and expressly stops the location being based on the four nations (and procurement is a devolved authority, so Scotland, Wales and particularly Northern Ireland will presumably create their own rules based on the UK ones).  But you can see the problems with Scottish contracts for Scotland, English contracts for England etc.

Secondly, the region should be based on a county.  Now Yorkshire is big.  But Rutland and the Isle of Wight are small.  I can see the sense in restricting IoW contracts to the island.  But Rutland?  Surely there is value to be had in sourcing from Leicestershire or Northamptonshire?  But a political advantage in drawing only from Rutland companies....  (I know nothing about the Rutland apart from the TV comedy programme, so I hope that people there do not think I am suggesting they are particularly likely to have problems.  It just happens to be the smallest county)

Thirdly, the geographical restriction will be loved by councils and councillors who want to spend money in their own constituencies.  There are obvious worries about Value for Money, and of course unethical buying behaviour (much in the news at the moment).


So, I remain to be convinced.


Thoughts on the new UK Green Paper on Public Procurement

 A few passing thoughts on the new Green paper (which I will try to add to as it sinks in).

The Paper is here.


First, the ability to limit contracts below threshold to SMEs is a consequence of being outside the EU procurement directive, and reflects the fact that the WTO GPA (World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement) only applies above the relevant threshold.  (note that thresholds will remain).

Is this a good idea?  Well it depends on whether it is used.  Central Government already has a target of 1/3 spend with SMEs, (a target that is fudged, but that is another issue) and this should help.  I suspect that it will be of use for Local Authorities who strongly prefer to spend their money locally, and it will help to overcome the advantage the "big players" have by using strong bid writing teams.  I do suspect though that the SMEs will end up being the bigger firms (near the 250 person limit) rather than micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees).

  • Allowing buyers to include wider social benefits of the supplier, such as economic, social and environmental factors, when assessing who to award a contract to, while also still considering value for money
Again, I suspect Local Authorities will love this and look for it to be a charter to award contracts to local business - regardless of other constraints.  Could be good, could lead to local buying leading to poor value for money.
  • Giving buyers the power to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance, allowing them to exclude suppliers who have failed to deliver in the past
This builds on the existing discretionary exclusion, and could be a good "whip" to complement the "Carrots" of further contracts.  We do need to address the way that the make money is to win the contract, regardless of whether you do a good or poor job.  It creates an incentive to invest in bid writing not delivery.
  • A new unit to oversee public procurement with powers to improve commercial skills of public sector contractors
OK, UK Government - you know where I am.  Happy and willing to run help improve commercial skills.  It is my job.  Give me a call.  
Flippancy aside this has long been an unmet need, and the new regulations will make it urgent.
  • A single digital platform for registering contracts, improving transparency and making life significantly simpler for business
This makes sense and I could not understand the previous desire to have 2 platforms.  Though I do wonder how it will fit in with the developed procurement powers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who all have their own platforms and rules.

We propose enshrining in law, the principles of public procurement: value for money, the public good, transparency, integrity, efficiency, fair treatment of suppliers and non-discrimination.

This is actually more principles than we have at the moment, but I don't see anything to object to here with the possible exception of the "public good" - who determines that?  How do we measure it objectively?

 We propose establishing a single digital platform for supplier registration that ensures they only have to submit their data once to qualify for any public sector procurement.
This is a good idea, and was the basis of the ESPD (European Single Procurement Document) that the government previously and ostentatiously refused to apply in England (preferring to stick to the Selection Questionnaire SQ) though Scotland and Wales used it.

We propose legislating for a new Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS+)
Colour me not convinced.