What the New UK Procurement Bill Means for Suppliers

The UK’s upcoming Procurement Bill, designed to reshape the post-Brexit public procurement system, is entering its final legislative phase. The House of Lords is reviewing amendments proposed by the Commons, with the next session scheduled for October 24, 2023. This stage is the last hurdle before the bill becomes law.

The anticipated launch date for the new system is now set for October 2024, a slight delay from the previous estimate of late 2023. Notably, there will be a minimum 6-month notice period before the new rules take effect. Until the official “go-live” date, the existing legislative framework will continue to apply.

The legislation proposes to make it easier for businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to secure public sector contracts. If passed into law, the bill looks to provide several proposed advantages for suppliers bidding on government tenders:1. Better Visibility of Upcoming Contracts

The bill requires large contracting authorities to publish an 18-month pipeline of procurement opportunities over £2 million. This gives suppliers more time to prepare bids, either as prime contractors or subcontractors. Suppliers can view upcoming contracts by region and category.2. More Robust Rules Around Market Engagement

Currently, buyers can be hesitant about engaging the market before tenders. The bill clarifies when and how authorities can talk to suppliers before tenders. This gives suppliers a chance to help shape requirements early on.3. Simplified Supplier Registration

A new centralised system lets suppliers register once with key details kept in a shareable “evidence locker”, which can then be integrated with individual procurement systems. This will make it very clear for smaller suppliers looking across the public sector where sign‑up will be required and what information needs to be kept up to date.4. Flexible Procurement Procedures

The new Procurement Bill offers various advantages to new entrants in contract awards. Contracting authorities can tailor their procurement processes through the Competitive Flexible procedure, benefiting complex or innovative solutions. This allows them to incorporate components from specialist new entrants, like cyber security firms with cutting-edge technology. In contrast, open procedures without down-selection benefit SMEs that compete based on price and quality for less complex procurements. The bill also introduces a Dynamic Market, allowing suppliers to join anytime, and a longer-term framework option, reducing the risk of suppliers being locked out for extended periods.5. Clearer Bid Feedback

The new Procurement Bill will provide unsuccessful bidders with clear assessment summaries, allowing them to understand how their bid compared to the winner. This promotes organisational development and encourages new entrants to persist in seeking business opportunities.6. Better Contract Management

New rules mandate 30-day payment terms across public sector supply chains, regardless of contract terms. Prime contractors must comply, impacting payment dynamics in complex supply chains.

The bill intends to reboot thinking and mitigate risks that have hindered new entrants. It proposes to provide opportunities for more suppliers to access public sector contracts.

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