The Procurement Bill will significantly transform public sector procurement in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with various existing laws to be consolidated to create a simpler, more transparent regime. An overview of the transformation programme can be found in our breakdown article.
How will the Procurement Bill impact suppliers?
The key changes for suppliers to the public sector are:
- An emphasis on including SMEs and VCSEs
- The introduction of new procurement procedures
- Access to a new centralised digital platform
- Increased market intelligence data
Driving renewed focus on engaging with SME suppliers
The Bill aims to make it easier for businesses to enter public sector supply chains, with a focus on reducing the barriers faced by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises (VCSEs) in scoring contracts. It will include a new duty that requires buyers to consider how their opportunities can be accessible to SMEs, such as by ensuring realistic bidding times and targeting a diverse range of suppliers in pre-market engagement activities.
Additionally, the changes should make the bidding process less costly to suppliers, as it will ensure 30-day payment terms on a broader range of contracts and reduce unnecessary insurance costs before bidding.
However, the focus on engaging new suppliers could mean increased competition for those already bidding, putting further pressure on submitting a strong bid.
How the procurement process will change
The simplification of the procurement process under the new regulations will include the introduction of the Competitive Flexible procedure. This allows the buyer to design a competition to suit their individual needs, which is expected to benefit suppliers delivering niche, complex or high-tech services.
New regulations for framework procurements
Alternatively, an enhanced commercial tool called a Dynamic Market will reform the use of framework procurements. Through a Dynamic Market, suppliers will be allowed to join at any time and buyers will be able to run quick competitions. Alongside new legislation for longer-term frameworks to include an opening point for suppliers to re-apply, these changes aim to mitigate the effect of being locked out of frameworks following an unsuccessful first bid.
Feedback on unsuccessful bids
In a further effort to support suppliers facing an unsuccessful bid, there will be consistent feedback provided on any unsuccessful bids through an assessment summary showing a supplier directly how their bid compared to the winner.
Central digital platform
A fundamental part of the new regime is the introduction of a central digital platform to be used by buyers and suppliers to advertise, search for and apply for opportunities. Whereas the current system requires suppliers to use time and resources registering across several platforms, the new platform will make bidding quicker and easier as suppliers need only register their details once for use in any bids.
The platform will also make it easier to search for current and upcoming opportunities, with more detailed information to be made available due to the Bill’s transparency reforms.
Transparency is a core focus of the Bill, meaning suppliers have access to expanded market intelligence data. The responsibility of contracting authorities to publish commercial pipelines will be a substantial benefit to suppliers, allowing them to be proactive in finding opportunities and giving more time to prepare a bid before the tender goes live.
On the other hand, suppliers will be subject to increased transparency rules regarding their performance, as their KPIs will be publicly available. The creation of a debarment register means that buyers can exclude certain bidders, so suppliers and their supply chains will be held to a higher standard.
How to prepare for the Procurement Bill
The Bill is in the final stages of its passage through Parliament and is currently expected to go live in October 2024, with a minimum of six months’ notice. In the meantime, suppliers should ensure they are in the best position to succeed under the new legislation.
By familiarising themselves with the proposed exclusion grounds (Schedules 6 and 7 of the Bill, which can be found on the Parliament website), suppliers can make sure their supply chain will not present an issue in winning and maintaining contracts.
Additionally, as a result of the Bill striving to make public sector procurement accessible to more suppliers, the landscape is likely to become more competitive for all bidders. This makes it even more crucial for suppliers to stay on top of the contracts being tendered within their market, such as by using Oxygen Insights’ new Tendalert tool.
For regular updates on the progression and implementation of the Bill, visit the Government’s Transforming Public Procurement collection.