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Public procurement: 4 steps to compliance

Navigating the complex regulations that govern public procurement can be a real headache, and conducting a non-compliant process can result in huge additional costs, reputational damage, fines and legal action. Here, we look at four key steps to compliant public sector purchasing:

1. Documentation
There must be free and unrestricted online access to tender documents for any interested suppliers. Mini-competitions held under framework agreements and dynamic purchasing systems (DPS) can be made available only to the pool of approved suppliers, but if you’re carrying out a full procurement, exercise documents need to be accessible and downloadable by any potential contractor.

2. Communication
All suppliers need to be provided with exactly the same information in terms of documentation and any queries that are raised. For example, if one supplier seeks clarification about an element of procurement, you must provide the information to all other interested suppliers.

3. Submission
All tender submissions from suppliers, regardless of value, must be returned through a secure online post-box facility – standard email systems are not appropriate. This serves to keep all bids anonymous until the deadline has expired and you’re ready to begin the evaluation stage.

4. Publication
Publishing a notice online in itself doesn’t make your procurement compliant. If the value is above £10,000 (for central government) or £25,000 (for sub-central organisations) the notice has to be uploaded to the Contracts Finder website. If the value is above the relevant EU threshold, this also needs to be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union via the Tenders Electronic Daily website.

Tools and processes
Contracts Finder is essentially a transparency register and doesn’t have the functionality required to conduct competitions or carry out contract management processes (unlike the Welsh and Scottish national portals Sell2Wales and Public Contracts Scotland).

As such, Public Sector buyers in England need to utilise an off-the-shelf eProcurement platform for competitions and will ideally manage their contracts via the same system in order to centralise resources and simplify administration as much as possible.

Want to know more?
For advice on compliance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, simply call 01224 650 756.