• On 26 February 2015 the new Public Contracts Regulations came into force, implementing domestically the EU Public Procurement Directive and certain other measures aimed at ensuring that small businesses have better access to public sector contracts.

    Significant changes that businesses planning to tender for public contracts should be aware of are:

    • tendering documents must now be available from the date of the Official Journal of the EU advertisement (i.e. no more registering interest and chasing for updates);
    • there are new detailed rules governing the modification of contracts during their term. In particular, public bodies will have some rights to modify contracts without having to launch a new procurement procedure;
    • there is increased scope for using the negotiated procedure (now renamed the “competitive procedure with negotiation”);
    • there is a new ‘light touch’ regime for contracts for social and other services such as health and education that are worth more than €750,000. These contracts will need to be advertised but otherwise are subject to minimal regulation;
    • there are now reduced timescales for procurement; on average timeframes have been reduced by a third and a new “Accelerated published” procedure for OJEU tenders has been introduced;
    • the use of the PQQ stage for low value contracts is now prohibited;
    • contracting authorities are now only allowed to ask for suppliers to have a turnover that is twice the value of the contract they are applying for; and
    • new discretionary exclusions mean that poor performance on a previous contract can be grounds for exclusion for up to 5 years.

    The Regulations do not apply retrospectively, so any procurement that commenced before 26 February 2015 is not affected. Further reforms, such as those supporting the movement to electronic procurement procedures, will not come into effect until 2018.

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