The Procurement Act (Act), which was introduced into Parliament on 11 May 2022, ended its Parliamentary passage on 26 October with Royal Assent granted. The new Procurement Act is expected to come fully into force in October 2024.
The Act is a key element of the Government's 'post-Brexit' strategy and aims to reform and reset the current EU-based laws on public procurement of goods and services within the UK. The objective of the Act is to modernise and streamline the UK's procurement rules, whilst placing a focus on "value for money, public benefit, transparency and integrity".
The introduction of the Act followed a lengthy period of public consultation which commenced with the publication of a Green Paper - Transforming Public Procurement - in December 2020 seeking input from stakeholders on a range of proposals to reform and simplify the EU-based rules. The Government received 619 responses to the Green Paper from public bodies, suppliers to Government, and from other interested parties such as academics, legal professionals and members of the public. The Government's response to the consultation was published on 6 December 2021. Overall, respondents were positive about the proposed changes but the Government nevertheless shifted its position in a number of areas in the light of comments received during the consultation.
The Act represents evolution, not revolution, in the way that public procurement will be regulated in the UK. The scope of the legislation and many of the concepts used are similar to those that procurement practitioners will be familiar with from the current EU-based rules. This is in large part because the Act seeks to implement the UK's post-Brexit commitments under the Government Procurement Agreement of the WTO (GPA) and other trade agreements entered into by the UK. The GPA requires signatories to open up their Government procurement markets to suppliers from other signatory states within the scope of mutual commitments given by the parties.
Even if in its overall structure the new regime under the Act has much in common with the current procurement rules, there is plenty in the Act that those involved in the UK procurement world will need to up-skill on in the period between Royal Assent and the full coming into force of the Act. Some of the key areas of change include:
- Re-framed principles and objectives of procurement
- Streamlined and simplified award procedures
- Greater flexibility for contracting authorities to introduce non-economic criteria into procurements
- A new, and tougher, framework for supplier exclusion and debarment, including the introduction of a debarment "black list" and the possibility of exclusion on national security grounds
- More flexible forms of framework agreements and dynamic markets (replacing dynamic purchasing systems and utility qualification systems)
- New grounds for direct award
- Lots of new notices and publication requirements together with a central supplier database for qualification information
- Some clarification and expansion of the ground for permitted contract modifications
- Power for the Government to disapply the general procurement regime from certain healthcare procurement (where a standalone regime under the health legislation exists)
- Reforms to the system for remedies and challenges to procurement decisions
In a series of articles to be published in this Bulletin over the coming months, we will examine the key features of the Act and highlight the main areas in which the public procurement regime will, and will not, change. Today we are kicking off with pieces that consider:
- The general scope of the Act and the principles and objectives of procurement under the Act
- The new regime for supplier exclusion and debarment
Article originally published on 16 October and then updated on 26 October.
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