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Time to ring in the big procurement switch

Dec 10, 2020

School procurement processes are set for big changes from 11pm this New Year’s Eve. This is what we know so far, says Lorraine Ashover of Minerva Procurement Consultancy.

Procurement processes will probably be far from our minds at 23:00 this New Year’s Eve.

While Jools Holland warms up his boogie-woogie keyboard for his umpteenth TV Hootenanny and we reach for a consoling G&T, big changes will be in motion that will have a significant impact on schools. 

At that time (midnight in Brussels) the UK will exit the EU and OJEU’s TED portal will cease to be the place to publish new procurement notices and Find a Tender (FTS) will take its place.

As a school procurement professional, I’m trying to find out as much as I can about the changes and how they will affect my school clients in the new year. I attended an excellent webinar this week, hosted by Professor Dr Sue Arrowsmith QC, Achilles Professor of Public Procurement Law and Policy at the University of Nottingham and part of the Cabinet Office Procurement Transformation Advisory Group, advising on post-Brexit reform of domestic public procurement law.

She outlined the forthcoming changes in how we advertise regulated procurements after the transition period ends. Here are the main things I got from the presentation:

  •  Until 23.00 on 31 December we are still obliged to apply EU procurement law.  After that we will be subject to the WTO (World Trade Organisation)/GPA (Agreement on Government Procurement) procurement agreement.

 

  • The Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) consists of 20 parties covering 48 WTO members (counting the European Union and its 27 member states, and the United Kingdom, all of which are covered by the Agreement, as one party). Another 36 WTO members/observers and four international organisations participate in the GPA Committee as observers. Twelve of these members with observer status are in the process of acceding to the Agreement. One, the UK, is seeking to accede to the revised GPA in its own right for the period after the transition period (provided for under the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement) during which the UK is treated as an EU member state.

 

  • There is a government green paper due to be issued imminently (possibly before the end of the year) which will outline some more ‘radical’ changes to the Public Procurement Regulations which will happen in the medium term.  The government is hoping to cut red tape in introducing these changes.

 

  • The green paper will set out ideas to encourage consultation.  The changes taken forward will depend on people’s responses to the consultation, as will the timing of their introduction.  There is no set timetable for the introduction of the changes that we know of, although the green paper might provide an indication. Professor Dr Sue Arrowsmith says that she would be surprised to see any changes before 2022.

 

  • In the meantime, until it is repealed and replaced, the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015) will continue to apply.  This ensures the UK’s compliance with the GPA.

 

  • Once we transition from the EU some other EU regulations will also still apply such as the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE).

 

  • In order to help facilitate the transition some amendments are being made to the PCR2015 via the Public Procurement (Amendment Etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 but these are just tweaks that reflect us leaving the EU.  There are no other major changes.

 

  • If you hear the term “UK e-notification services” this is just the term used in the regulations for the Find a Tender Services (FTS).

 

  • If you have already started a procedure via OJEU, then you need to finish under that too.  So, if your Contract Notice was published via OJEU then the Contract Award Notice should also be published on there.

 

  • Thresholds are currently the same, so supplies and services is £189,330, works is £4,733,252 and light touch regime (of which school catering is one) is £663,540, but check out this site for the latest on those thresholds.

 

  • Thresholds are currently quoted in sterling but based on a euro figure which is changed every two years. This will continue until the change of rules when, presumably, the next change in threshold will be based on a sterling figure.

 

The clock is ticking, so try to use the remaining days before the end of term to familiarise yourself with the changes and make sure you know how to advertise your above threshold tenders after the deadline. If you’re unsure of what to do then get advice from someone like us, lawyers or the Schools Commercial Team at the DfE.

Big changes are afoot but if there’s one lesson that we’ve learned during 2020 it is that we can deal with large scale upheaval pretty well!

Have a lovely Christmas break and a Happy New Year – you deserve it!

Lorraine Ashover is managing director of Minerva Procurement Consultancy Services Limited. Focused exclusively on the school sector, Minerva has helped schools tender £85 million worth of contracts and generated more than £2.5 million of revenue, refunds and ongoing annual savings for its clients over the past four years. A new edition of Minerva’s free e-book, 84 Points for a Perfect Procurement Process, is available at https://minervapcs.com/contact/



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