The Public Procurement Bill is scheduled to come into effect in October 2024. This gives those who work with government bodies in the public sector plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of the new legislation.
To aid this process, government departments will give public procurement buyers and suppliers a six-month adjustment period that allows parties in the public sector to come to grips with the new regulations.
This is so contracting authorities (e.g., defence and security contracts and postal services sectors) can understand the finer points of the Bill and ensure that they, and their procurement processes, are fully prepared for what’s to come.
But just what is to come for contract authorities?
We’re going to look at some tips public sector organisations can follow to get ready for the new regime. And at how public services providers can make the transition from one set of regulations to the other as seamless as possible.
The Intention Behind Procurement Reform
The Public Procurement Bill will introduce many changes intended to remove the complexity and improve the efficiency of public procurement processes, increase transparency in publishing and awarding contracts, and open the public sector to SMEs with smaller contracts.
A Main Motivator
As a matter of fact, one of the primary driving factors in public procurement reform is to increase the presence of SMEs operating in public procurement.
There are two ways in which the government hopes to achieve this:
1) Encourage innovative solutions and collaboration among SME consortiums so they can bid as a unit on larger public sector contracts, and
2) Use social value to level the playing field so SMEs can compete against larger businesses for larger public contract opportunities.
A Holistic View
The Procurement Bill covers all aspects of public sector procurement, making all the links in the supply chain more accountable for their spending, which enables taxpayers to see how their money is used to support and improve public services.
Furthermore, by emphasising integrity, the new procurement rules are designed to make it easier to identify and take action against unethical public sector buyers and suppliers.
All-in-all, there is a definite increase in focus on value for money rather than the price itself, which is achieved through transparent and fair competitive practices that benefit the local public interest.
Public sector businesses and other organisations must also adhere to strict regulations that prohibit the use, directly or indirectly, of modern slavery, including working conditions, fair remuneration, non-discrimination, equal treatment, and employee health and safety.
Simplification of Public Sector Procurement Processes
As it stands, the UK has over 350 procurement regulations across several regimes and different procurement categories, such as the specialist field of defence. It’s no wonder that many businesses with great potential stayed away from the local and central government procurement market.
The new Bill will knock all of that down to create a single regime and standardise public procedures so that the same procurement rules apply whether you operate in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
(Scotland has opted out of the proposed reforms, choosing instead to stay with EU procurement directives.)
Digitising Public and Concession Contracts
The whole system is being digitised, so that suppliers register once on a digital platform. This enables them to submit bids on a range of local and central government contracts from different contracting authorities, without having to register and upload their details every single time.
Furthermore, once suppliers have registered on a platform they are notified whenever public authorities publish suitable contracts.
Procurement buyers can also use portals to manage their operations (contracts and suppliers) quickly and easily.
The various procurement software packages provide each contracting authority with the ability to evaluate and assess suppliers with different measurement tools.
Analytics tools work best because they provide a truly comprehensive set of features and functions to measure any aspect or factor in public procurement and supply chain management.
Who Is Affected By The Procurement Bill?
The Bill affects all contracting authorities in public procurement, from central government departments to the wider public sector, including local government and the NHS. Utility companies that provide public services (water, energy, transport) are also subject to the new public contracts regulations.
Tips To Comply With Procurement Reform Regulations
Wrapping your brain around brand-new processes isn’t easy, especially when you’ve been doing them a different way for decades. Fortunately, there is a Transforming Public Procurement Checklist available to ensure you take all the correct steps and follow all the tips to achieve total government procurement compliance.
1) Update your early engagement strategy because it will stand you in good stead when framework agreements come around. Existing relationships with public bodies won’t win contracts, but they will make you memorable and help you stand out of the crowd so that central and local government buyers keep you top of mind.
2) Public authorities and buyers must go over their evaluation/assessment procedures so that they are in line with the new procurement legislation that focuses on different assessment criteria, like supply chain ethics and social value initiatives.
3) Find eProcurement and eSourcing systems that have already been designed with the procurement changes in mind, including transparency requirements in publishing and awarding contracts.
Start using the systems so that the services are old hat when the public procurement reform comes rolling in.
4) Update your cyber security so that it can manage the new ways in which data will be captured, categorised, and stored. This will depend largely on the systems you use, especially if the technology is current or out of date.
5) Prioritise training. The only way to ensure that you comply with all the rules and regulations, and to get the most out of the new procurement legislation is through staff training. To this end, the Cabinet Office will provide a learning and development programme to help you make the transition from one regime to the other.
Remember to include your procurement manager in the training programme. It’s essential for them to fully understand the new regime so they can properly manage procurement up and down the supply chain.
They must be able to answer questions immediately and refrain from constantly referring to training material to try and suss out a solution.
Training resources in the learning and development programme include:
- Knowledge drops: short procurement process presentations
- Self-guided e-learning: completion of 10 public procurement modules to earn a Practitioner Certificate
- Deep dive webinars: intensive three-day course for those who have earned their Practitioner Certificate in public contracts regulations.
6) Avoid exclusions and debarment. Employees, especially procurement managers, must fully understand what behaviour and actions are categorised as severe misconduct. They also need to be aware of other factors that result in non-compliance and could result in your business being excluded or even debarred from public contracts.
Factors that will exclude you from government-published contracts include excessive risks, unethical practices, continuous poor performance, and financial mismanagement.
Determine which factors contribute to compliance in your industry and make sure you hit the mark.
The Procurement Act, Compliance, And You
The Procurement Act will ring the changes in the public sector procurement process and compliance requirements. While the new regime presents additional criteria, especially regarding social value, complying with the new public procurement regulations needn’t be a headache.
With a few simple steps, as mentioned above, you can be compliance-ready way ahead of time, which gives you a competitive advantage in the future procurement of public contracts.
Compliance once doesn’t mean compliance always
It’s a good idea to regularly check your processes to ensure they remain compliant with procurement rules and regulations.
Even unintentional non-compliance can result in penalties and debarment. As a result, you want to manage your organisation’s participation in the new procurement regime to ensure there are no slip-ups. After all, digital technology isn’t perfect 100% of the time.
You might want to consider refresher courses in the new public procurement regime for your procurement manager and other key employees in procurement procedures and supply chain management.
Not only does this provide additional guidance for public contracts, but the new knowledge also helps identify new contract opportunities.
Procurement and Compliance for Central Government Bodies & Contract Authorities
If you want your business to succeed in public procurement, you must ensure you know the new rules inside out and can spot a potential non-compliance issue before it becomes a problem.
Procurement software plays an essential role in the procurement process. It provides bird’s eye and on-the-ground points of view that show your procurement contract’s strengths and weaknesses, and red flags potential risks, including supplier non-compliance that will indirectly affect your level of compliance.
Delta eSourcing provides a range of services to guide public procurement buyers and suppliers through contract publishing to analytics. Support such as this is invaluable to not only optimise contracting and bidding best practice but to also ensure your compliance with the new public contracts regulations every step of the way.
Book a free demo now to find out how Delta eSourcing can help you get the most out of wider public sector contracts and enhance your opportunities to garner contract awards.