Regulaton & Policy
Ideas for Post-Brexit UK Public Procurement from BiP’s Eddie Regan (Part 2)

At the recent Procurex South event in London, Eddie Regan of BiP Solutions spoke on “the Potential Impact on Procurement Post Brexit”. Regan is the Principal Consultant for the training business within BiP Solutions, and is well-respected in the UK public procurement world.

Here is another selection of the ideas Regan put forward (not all his own) around the potential for changing the UK procurement regulations post-Brexit. And of course these are also changes that the EU could make to its own procurement regime, if it so desired. Part 1 is here.

More focus on social benefits from procurement, supporting local companies etc. This whole issue of using public procurement to support wider social, economic (and perhaps political) agendas is a huge one of course. There are more legitimate options than ever before, and the latest regulations legitimised a range of possible actions and techniques that contracting authorities can follow. But some would like to go further. We won’t go into all the issues here, but it is important to realise that there are negatives with this agenda as well as potential positives. Those include the danger of increased fraud or corruption as selection factors become less objective; reducing competition by including more onerous “social requirements” into tenders; increased prices and decreased real value. These are not straightforward issues, and as always there is a balance to be sought.

More opportunities to use negotiations post receipt of tenders and when using frameworks – this is another are where we have sympathy with the fundamental goal (more commercial approaches and better value for the taxpayer), yet have some cynicism and doubts too. Might this additional freedom just be used to direct contracts towards favoured suppliers? In the London Garden Bridge (dodgy / illegal) procurement recently, a favoured supplier was given the opportunity to re-submit their bid in the guise of “negotiation”. We fear this might become more common if the regulations were relaxed. This is also another area where skilled public procurement professionals know that there is some scope for negotiation anyway – but it has to be handled carefully (and fairly of course).

Include basic contract management provisions as part of the specification – this was the only remark Regan made that really confused us. Surely you can do that already? You CAN identify contract management requirements from the beginning, include them in the draft contract, ask bidders how they will respond to them, even make aspects of this part of the evaluation and selection process by asking appropriate questions to the bidders.

Push contracting authorities into disclosing the timescale for evaluation of tenders – this was one of the few suggestions in the session that was specifically aimed at helping the supply side of the equation and it is a good idea. There is nothing more frustrating for a supplier than having a tight timescale for putting in a bid then waiting months for the results of the evaluation. It is often down simply to bad project management, planning or basic discipline from the authority  – and there should be no excuse for this.

Rework the remedies and standstill regimes – this is a big topic and in our experience, neither the buy nor the sell side is particularly happy about the current set-up. Suppliers feel that it is too difficult to challenge, takes time and is expensive. Buyers believe that they can be severly punished for genuine errors – even when they perhaps did not even favour any supplier. Then the consequences of a contract award actually being suspended by the courts can be very severe. There are alternative options – we rather like the idea of a procurement Ombudsman, as Canada has put in place. But this is another tricky area where getting the balance right between the different interests is not easy.

Maximise use of electronic tools, maybe even social media techniques – yes of course this would be sensible. To be fair, the EU has moved over the years, promoting eInvoicing and dynamic purchasing systems for instance in recent years. It would seem to be just a case of defining what it is that the buy-side wants to do, and most governments whether national or at EU level will probably be happy to make any necessary legislative changes.

And our thanks to Procurex and Eddie Regan for a stimulating half an hour!