Those who have ever awarded or bid for a publicly funded contract opportunity will know that the UK public procurement regime is, at best, complex and bound tightly in red tape. With the arrival of Covid-19, quick changes were made to speed up supply to critical elements of the public economy, and to lessen the burden on those key suppliers. The ability to change is then clearly there. But how will the procurement regime change in 2021?
Although the procurement rules have their roots in EU Law, they are part of our national laws. So, with one important exception, there has been no immediate change for the day to day running of bids caught by the various procurement regulations.
What is that exception? The new Find a Tender portal has replaced Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) for all contracts and framework agreements which need to be advertised by a UK Contracting Authority. It will run in tandem with Contracts Finder, though lower value contracts are likely to be advertised on Contracts Finder only.
- If you are looking for an opportunity which was advertised before 11pm on 31 December 2020, you will still need to look on TED
- Any contract or framework agreement which had to be advertised by a UK Contracting Authority after 11pm on 31 December 2020 must be advertised on Find a Tender.
The link for Find a Tender is now live.
You should not assume that advertising in OJEU and Contracts Finder will be the ‘belt and braces’ approach. Any contract not properly advertised under the UK regime will potentially be open to challenge.
The current processes for advertising, running and challenging awards are onerous and difficult to navigate. The position is made all the more complex by the application of different regulations to defence, utilities and concessions.
There are also questions as to how effectively our current court system can really deal with the complexity and urgency that go hand in hand with procurement challenges. This is exacerbated by strained court resources coinciding with heightened competition, when tighter budgets are increasing the appetite to take those challenges on.
Change is therefore expected; it will just be a question of time. Watch this space.