Transforming Public Procurement in the UK

With the Transition Period ending on 31st December 2020, the UK has taken a positive action to review potential changes in procurement, which is being described as an historic opportunity to overhaul our outdated public procurement regime within the Government’s recent Green Paper, which can be found here.

What has changed?

With amended legislation and systems to ensure the smooth changeover, the UK’s new ‘Find a Tender’ service (FTS) launched on 1st January 2021, replacing publication to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) via Tenders Electronic Daily (TED). As such, this new service, which has not been widely promoted, is now the main public search portal for high value procurement, alongside Contracts Finder.

This key change affects both public sector Buyers and Suppliers, as any new procurement notices must now be published to this platform in line with The Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which still governs UK procurement.

Find a Tender can be used to search for high-value opportunities or awarded contracts, typically over £122,976 but varying in some cases, across the whole of the UK.

Requirements to publish on other platforms remain unchanged, where information on contracts over £10,000 (or £25,000 outside central government) can be found on:

  • Contracts Finder for England 
  • Public Contracts Scotland for Scotland
  • Sell2Wales for Wales
  • eSourcing NI and eTendersNI for Northern Ireland

The government has provided further guidance and support to the introduction of the new platform, which details what changes are in place, how this may affect your business and further instructions on how to register, publish and search for contracts. This Procurement Policy Note can be found here.

Green paper aims

With transparency and fairness protruding as the main themes of the proposed amendments to UK procurement, the Cabinet Office’s green paper states that through exploitation of technology, better value will be delivered, legislating a common data model for all contracting authorities in line with the global Open Contracting Data Standard. The aim is to join up the plethora of procurement systems to simplify the process of bidding for public contracts, driving commercial benefits from better sharing of data. 

Main aims of this consultation include:

  • Proposition of embedding transparency by default throughout the commercial lifecycle from planning through procurement, contract award, performance and completion. 
  • All contracting authorities to implement the Open Contracting Data Standard so that data across the public sector can be shared and analysed at contract and category level. 
  • Introducing a new requirement to publish contract amendment notices so that amendments are transparent and to give commercial teams greater certainty over the risk of legal challenge. 
  • Proposed ‘crisis’ as a new ground on which limited tendering can be used to provide greater certainty for contracting authorities in these circumstances. 
  • Making it mandatory to publish a notice when a decision is made to use the limited tendering procedure.

Green paper consultation

In producing this Green Paper, the Cabinet Office has engaged with over 500 stakeholders and organisations through many hundreds of hours of discussions and workshops. This has included stakeholders from central and local government, the education and health sectors, small, medium and large businesses, the charities and social enterprises sectors, academics and procurement lawyers and through the formation of a Procurement Transformation Advisory Panel.

Do you agree with the aims that are highlighted within this green paper? We would like to hear your thoughts on how this opportunity can shape the UK’s future of procurement and how we as procurement and tendering experts can build a future that is fair, transparent and provides inclusion for all.

In this next stage, the Cabinet Office is inviting responses to the public consultation that could help them develop, implement and monitor the success of the reforms with responses to be sent to by 10 March 2021.

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