BWL Professional Bid Services outline the impact of the Procurement Bill 2022 on public tenders
Following the UK Government’s Green Paper on Transforming Public Procurement in December 2020, the Procurement Bill was published on 11th May 2022 and is designed to introduce a simpler, more flexible, and more commercial procurement system. The legislation includes some fundamental changes to address the view that the current regime is too restrictive and complicated for business. While currently at the Committee stage in the House of Lords, the legislation is set for implementation in 2023 with a guide of six months from the Bill coming into law and the changes being affected.
The Bill’s main purpose is to make procurement easier for contracting authorities as well as bidding organisations. The legislation maintains the existing features of the Public Procurement Regulations 2015 and other associated legislation, meaning the procurement processes should improve efficiency as opposed to causing significant disruption. The changes have also been developed through consultation with over 500 stakeholders, 80% of which were with UK central and local government, the education and health sectors, and small, medium, and large businesses. Trade bodies, charities, academics, and procurement lawyers were also engaged as part of the consultation.
What are the key changes and impacts?
The Bill applies to all contracting authorities in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Notably, Scotland has opted not to join the UK Government Bill and to retain procurement regulations which have been transposed from the EU Directives. For businesses operating in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, this means having to manage two ways of working and respond effectively to both sets of requirements.
Supplier registration will be completed via a single digital platform which businesses will only have to complete once for all procurement exercises with public sector bodies. Declarations for mandatory and discretionary exclusion grounds, financial standing, insurance, and other standard information will all be managed under one supplier profile. This will result in far less administration for tendering and free up resources to spend more time on planning and the scored elements of the PQQ or tender.
The Bill removes the current procedures (open/restricted/competitive dialogue/negotiated) for procurement exercises and provides a single-stage procedure without a restriction on who can submit tenders. This may also involve limiting the number of participants across multiple stages. Contracting authorities can design their procurements to suit their needs, making them more straightforward for tenderers and bidders to follow.
Contracting authorities will now have to consider maximising public benefit and integrity as well as value for money as part of the tender evaluation process, with the “most advantageous tender” (“MAT”) now being used in place of the existing “most economically advantageous tender” (“MEAT”) system. It seems that this is aimed at ensuring that contracting authorities can consider other factors within the evaluation, such as social and environmental impacts and proposed solutions. Additionally, this could mean that suppliers that can offer relevant, innovative, and tailored solutions with added value will score higher than others if the contracting authority chooses to favour these attributes.
A useful tool that is eagerly anticipated is the new Pipeline Notice. Contracting Authorities that are due to spend more than £100 million in public contracts the following year will publish a “pipeline notice” to give suppliers advanced notice of the contracts it intends to procure. This will affect local authorities and Central Government departments and will help businesses wishing to forecast their pipeline of opportunities more accurately. More scope is provided to qualify bids, allowing businesses to ensure they have the resources in place and are better prepared for their critical bids.
The standstill period will be reduced from ten working days to eight working days. This change means that bidders will have less time to review the feedback and submit any challenges within the standstill period. Bidding organisations may need to develop a process with key responsibilities to ensure that reviews of the scoring and feedback are completed in time for any challenges to be correctly submitted within the time allowed.
In summary, the changes should make the tendering process easier for both the contracting authority and the bidding organisations, particularly the use of a single portal for supplier registration and the move “MAT” (as opposed to “MEAT”) which should allow contracting authorities to award to suppliers based on their local and specific priorities.