We’re starting off 2019 with a guest blog from Bid Manager Steph Hague, which looks at procurement regulations in a post-Brexit world …
Whether or not the UK will leave the EU on 29th March or at some point thereafter is still very much open to (heated) debate but, in the meantime, the far-reaching implications of Brexit are being considered across the public and private sectors to ensure readiness for a leave scenario, deal or no deal. For those of us in the bidding world, the most significant issue will be any changes to the EU procurement regulations, which are currently aimed at ensuring that the purchasing of goods and services by public bodies in each EU Member State is open to EU-wide advertising and competition, creating an EU “single market” for public procurement.
It is safe to assume that the UK Government has no desire to move away from rules which support the core principles of transparency and competitive procurement. Nonetheless, there have been calls for the rules to be simplified and made more flexible, including from the Local Government Association (LGA) which, in an August 2017 press release, proclaimed the benefits of a “lighter touch” system which simplifies procurement.
The LGA claims that under the current rules the process can take twice as long as typical private sector procurements and that only 20% of English councils receive EU expressions of interest from companies based in other EU countries and only 1.6% of public contracts are awarded to companies in other member states. Both issues clearly reflect the frustration of those of us working for SMEs where, in reality, access to wider EU opportunities is of little interest and the bidding requirements for even low value, non-complex opportunities involve a significant resource, time and cost investment.
Of course, some regulation of public procurement will remain necessary post-Brexit in order to ensure that councils, and other public-sector bodies, continue to demonstrate best value for money and ensure effective and fair competition. However, as the current processes and entry requirements rule out many SMEs, therefore supressing rather than encouraging competition, the post-Brexit world may offer an opportunity to really enable the Davids to compete against the Goliaths.
In reality, the scope for the UK to make substantial modifications to the UK Procurement Regulations is likely to be constrained, post-Brexit; the UK will most likely remain obliged to keep most of the core features of the current procurement rules, including prior advertising of above-threshold contracts, minimum time periods for certain stages of the process, the application of transparent, pre-disclosed criteria at the selection and award stages and, perhaps most crucially, non-discrimination against tenderers from other EU or GPA countries.
Watch this space…..