Procurement reforms: update from Cabinet Office

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Rob Hann, Nicola Sumner and Juli Lau assess the Cabinet Office's update on the progress of the government's public procurement reforms.

The Government published its Post- Brexit Green Paper ‘Transforming Public Procurement’ on 15th December 2020 (as previously reported on our website), the stated policy aims being: “To provide the UK with a modern, fit-for-purpose set of rules, to minimize the bureaucratic burden for contacting authorities and businesses, facilitate innovation and the participation of SMEs, and improve the process of challenging decisions in the Courts”.

Contracting authorities, utilities, procurement practitioners and others affected by these proposed changes have been hoping to see the emergence of a Procurement Bill perhaps even before Christmas 2021. However, a recent Cabinet Office bulletin confirms that we will all have to wait a little longer.

The Cabinet Office says that the Procurement Bill is “to be introduced when Parliamentary time allows” and that “It will take several months to complete its passage through Parliament”. The Cabinet Office also warns that secondary legislation (regulations) will need to be made. The update concludes that given the required Parliamentary process, the new regime could not come into force until 2023 at the earliest.

On a more positive note, the Government has apparently now worked through the feedback received from over 600 respondents and reports that there is support for the key reforms, including the proposed new principles for public procurement and the consolidation of the existing regulations and procedures. Respondents were also supportive of a more flexible approach and recognised the benefits to be gained.

Interestingly, the bulletin indicates that there were several areas where “the Government’s thinking has moved on” as a result of feedback received and that it will publish, in the coming weeks, a summary of responses received and details of what the Government intends to do, in light of the consultation exercise.

In the meantime, it is important for contracting authorities and utilities to comply with the existing procurement regulations as amended by the ‘Brexit Statutory Instruments’, and to apply any Procurement Policy Notes that are currently in effect. Recent examples include PPN 06/21 National Procurement Policy Statement, and PPN 07/21 on transparency and publication requirements.

Sharpe Pritchard’s procurement experts will be keeping a close eye on developments and will continue to provide updates on our website as relevant developments occur.

Rob Hann is Legal Director and Head of Local Government, Nicola Sumner is a Partner and Head of Infrastructure, and Juli Lau is a Legal Director at Sharpe Pritchard.

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