• In September 2014, the Cabinet Office published a consultation on the transposition of the new EU procurement directives together with a draft of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 which will implement Directive 2014/24 and repeal the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.

    The Regulations will also implement some of the decisions taken to improve SME’s access to public sector contracts. The consultation period draft on 17 October 2014 and responses are now being considered. Has the Government really grasped the issue here or will it reflect another missed opportunity?

    The key points for SMEs are:

    • A requirement to advertise many contracts which currently fall outside the regulations will be a good thing for any supplier, whatever its size, wishing to provide goods and services to the public sector. All contracts, save for those less than £10,000 for central government authorities and £25,000 for others, must be advertised on Contracts Finder. Any relevant documents should be freely available online too and linked to the information published on Contracts Finder.
    • The elimination of Pre-Qualification Questionnaires for certain low-value contracts will also reduce burdensome administration but only if authorities do not merely transfer the questions into the Invitations to Tender.
    • SMEs may also benefit from the provisions for subcontracting. However, this is only partial as although they state the authority may ask tenderers to state any share of its contract that it may intend to subcontract to third parties, there is no requirement to do so.
    • Where SMEs are subcontractors, they will benefit from the requirement to ensure a contract provides the payment of contractors and subcontractors within 30 days.

    Again, a little cynicism may be forgivable as we have been there before with legislative attempts to combat late payment. However, the decision not to require authorities to divide their contracts into lots, leaving this in the hands of the authority is definitely a blow. Whilst this is a more flexible approach, large contracts which could easily be disaggregated may not be. As stated above, the regulations are still in draft and the final version is not expected until Spring 2015.

    The message for SMEs would be to:

    • check Contracts Finder to keep abreast of opportunities;
    • feedback their experiences to bodies lobbying on their behalf; and
    • watch out for developments and decisions on the matters.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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