Supplier blacklists and non-compliance investigators: Government’s new procurement regime

Written by Sam Trendall on 13 May 2022 in News
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Bill introduced during Queen’s Speech proposes a range of reforms

Credit: athree23/Pixabay

New procurement laws will introduce measures including a blacklist of banned suppliers and a Cabinet Office unit dedicated to cracking down on public bodies that do not comply with the rules.

The Procurement Bill was one of many new pieces of legislation set out in parliament during the Queen’s Speech earlier this week.

The law is designed to make provisions for a new public sector procurement regime to replace a current system that the government claims remains largely based on EU rules and processes.

The procurement bill will now make its way through both houses of parliament. If and when it is approved by MPs and Lords and passed into law, government aims to implement all the proposed measures within an ambitious timeframe of six months.

Among the most eye-catching proposals of the bill is the creation of a register of debarred suppliers, the details of which will be available not just to buyers, but to the general public. Companies could find themselves blacklisted for criminal offences – with a particular focus on modern slavery, fraud and negligence – as well as for simply failing to deliver satisfactorily on previous public sector engagements.


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The introduction of bill is also intended to simplify procurement processes by narrowing the core options available to purchasers from the seven that the government claims currently exist, down to three main types of exercise, the first of which is a ‘design-your-own’ competitive procedure. 

The second is for procedures that are expected to be limited, and not suitable for a full, open competition – because of complications with intellectual property rights, for example. The third process is intended to support emergency procurement exercises.

The government also hopes to largely replace the use of frameworks – which, under EU rules, appoint all certified suppliers at the start of a term which is capped at four years – with a more dynamic model, in which buying vehicles might last for eight years, but with frequent openings for the addition of new providers.

A new central register of frameworks will also be created, with the intention of making it easier for buyers and suppliers to find information on what contracts are in place – and potentially avoid what is currently a high level of duplication.

It is understood that the infrastructure and templates of current online tools – chiefly the GOV.UK Contracts Finder and Find a Tender websites – will continue underpin the new digital platforms, although it is not clear the extent to which the functionality or scope of the services will be beefed up, or if they may be rebranded.

But the framework register is intended to be one of a number of measures that the government claims will not only maintain, but increase the transparency demands of the current regime, which requires notices of new competitive tenders and the release of information on awarded contracts.

The government said that, once the law comes into effect, public bodies will be asked to release a greater amount of information with “publication requirements extended from planning to termination, including contract performance”.

Once again, the aim is to bring information on awarded deals together on a “a single central platform for contract data”.

This platform is hoped to a be an important tool for a new Procurement Review Unit which will based in the Cabinet Office. The unit is expected to comprise about 10-15 officials who will have a remit to investigate potential non-compliance with new legal requirements for transparency, competition and other measures proposed in the bill.

If these investigations identify any compliance issues, the unit will have the ability to publish reports, including recommendations for further action.

Minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Freeing businesses from the straightjacket of complicated rules and red tape was one of the key reasons that the British public voted to leave the EU. Now that we’re out, we can create a simpler and more transparent system that promotes competition among businesses and reassures taxpayers that every penny of their money is well spent.”
 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.

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