Thursday, 17 December 2020

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.

No comments: