The year 2023 marks a significant shift in the Public Sector procurement landscape, with new regulations and reforms set to transform the way housing associations approach procurement. In July 2023 we also published a broader update on OJEU Thresholds post-Brexit, which can be found here. We also published an update detailing the changes to PQQs (pre-qualification questionnaires), which can be found here.
As a housing association, it is crucial to stay up to date with the changes and ensure compliance with the new procurement rules. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the necessary insights and strategies to navigate the evolving procurement landscape successfully.
Understanding the Changes to Public Sector Procurement Rules: Terminology and Concepts
One of the first steps in preparing for the new procurement rules is to familiarise yourself with the changes in terminology and concepts. The Procurement Bill introduced a significant shift in language and terminology, departing from the European concepts and terms previously used. For example, "Contract Notices" are now referred to as "Tender Notices." It is essential to grasp these changes to effectively communicate and engage with the new procurement framework.
Additionally, the Procurement Bill introduces new concepts, such as "Covered Procurement," which require a deeper understanding. Taking the time to educate yourself and your team on the updated terminology and concepts will ensure smoother transitions and better compliance with the new rules.
Public Procurement Learning & Development Programme for Professionals: Enhancing Procurement Knowledge
To support the transition into the new procurement regime, the Cabinet Office will roll out an extensive Learning & Development programme. This programme, available to all contracting authorities, including housing associations, aims to equip procurement teams with the knowledge and skills required to navigate the changes effectively.
The programme will offer various training options, including knowledge drops, self-guided e-learning, full-day instructor-led advanced learning and communities of practice. These resources will cater to different levels within organisations, ensuring that procurement professionals at all stages of their careers have access to the necessary training.
It is crucial to stay updated on future updates from the Cabinet Office regarding the Learning & Development programme. Identifying individuals within your organisation who would benefit from attending specific training sessions and enrolling them in the relevant programmes will help ensure a smooth transition and enhance compliance with the new Procurement Act.
Assessing Procurement Internal Resources and Capabilities
As the procurement landscape evolves, it is essential to assess your organisation's internal resources and capabilities. Identify areas where additional resources or skills development may be required to meet the demands of the new procurement rules. This assessment aligns with the principles outlined in the National Procurement Policy Statement.
Taking stock of your internal resources will enable you to identify any gaps in expertise or capacity. Consider investing in training or hiring additional staff to bolster your procurement capabilities. By aligning your resources with the new regime, you can ensure smooth operations and compliance with the updated rules.
Maintaining an Up-to-Date Contracts Register and Anticipating Procurement Requirements
Under the new procurement rules, enhanced transparency is a key aspect. Housing associations anticipating significant public contract spend in the next financial year will be required to publish a pipeline notice. This notice should detail contracts with an estimated value exceeding £2 million that you expect to advertise within the next 18 months.
Additionally, contracts above £5 million in value will require the publication of redacted copies of the contracts with the Contract Details Notice. It is crucial to maintain an up-to-date contracts register, identifying anticipated spend and planning the pipeline of upcoming procurement requirements. This proactive approach will ensure compliance with the transparency obligations and provide visibility into future procurement activities.
Regularly reviewing and updating your contracts register will also help you identify when contracts are due for renewal, allowing for timely preparations and smooth transitions.
Evaluating Internal Contract Procedure Rules
Alongside the new procurement rules, it is essential to revisit your existing Contract Procedure Rules and Standing Orders. Identify areas where updates may be required to align with the new regime. Start by reviewing the procurement procedures for different values of contract opportunities, considering the increased flexibility offered by the new Competitive Flexible Procedure.
While awaiting further guidance from the Cabinet Office on the use of the Competitive Flexible Procedure, consider designing your own procedures based on your organisation's needs. Determine which types of procurement may benefit from elements of dialogue or negotiation. By revisiting your internal contract procedure rules, you can ensure they align with the new regime and optimise your procurement processes.
Staying Informed and Engaged
As the new procurement rules come into effect, it is crucial to stay informed and engaged with the evolving landscape. Regularly monitor updates from the Cabinet Office and other relevant sources to stay abreast of any changes or guidance related to the new procurement regime.
Engage with industry networks, such as communities of practice, to share knowledge and best practices with other housing associations and contracting authorities. By staying informed and engaged, you can adapt to any further developments in the procurement landscape and ensure ongoing compliance with the rules.
Housing Associations Procurement Updates - Conclusion
The upcoming reforms to the public procurement regime present both challenges and opportunities for housing associations. By understanding the changes in terminology, participating in the Learning & Development programme, assessing internal resources, maintaining an up-to-date contracts register, evaluating internal contract procedure rules, and staying informed and engaged, you can navigate the new procurement rules successfully.
As a housing association, compliance with the new procurement rules ensures transparency, fairness, and efficiency in your procurement processes. By proactively preparing for the changes, you can position your organisation for success in the evolving procurement landscape.
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Take a look at our Social Housing Grounds Maintenance, Procurement and Contract Management tips, which can be found here.
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