On 28th March this year, a new procurement directive was published in the Official Journal of the EU, with the law coming into force throughout the European Union on 17th April.
It was back in December 2011 that the decision to review and modernise the existing laws surrounding tender procurement was made, accompanied by the proposal of three new directives, designed to significantly amend previous legislation.
We’ve taken note of how the new directive will change the way bids for tender will work in the UK.
Currently, public contracts covered by the European Commission are valued at around €420 billion; so it goes without saying that they’re a pivotal factor in our economy.
Although the European Commission has granted a grace period of 24 months for member states to implement the directives into national law, the government here in Britain has taken an initiative to accelerate the rate at which the reforms are applied. The directive also stresses the growing importance of e-procurement, which will soon become a dominant mode of winning bids for a range of contracts. E-procurement regulations have an additional 30 months to be implemented.
So what’s changed?
Well the primary agenda of the new directive appears to be “availability”. For a while now, SMEs have struggled with bidding for public tenders, especially in larger contracts, because the participation process was designed in a way that favoured businesses with more resources, sometimes disregarding the need for expertise.
One of the most significant changes to the existing directive is the liberation of competitive dialogue procedures to include smaller contracts. Competitive dialogue procedures are basically a way of helping the buyer – the party offering the contract – find the right client for tender by essentially pitting suppliers against each other in a series of dialogues. It’s very much survival of the fittest.
Until now, these procedures were only an option in the case of large, complex projects, but the new directive makes them more widely available to procurement officers. That means that far more contracts will be available to SMEs than there were before; tenders will also be more evenly distributed to give a leg up to those who deserve it.
Things will be a little different for us bid writers, too. The new Public Contracts Directive brings with it a streamlined open procedure, in which the time limits for participation and submission of bids for tender will be shortened.
The idea is that this will make the application process far less laboured; for the same reason, the directive has also implemented the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), which relaxes the need to provide certification at the beginning of procurement unless it is absolutely necessary, as long as certification is provided before the award is given.
The final advantage that the directive offers is better safeguarding of public contracts, via the appointment of a national review body to monitor public procurement practices. This is supported by further additions to mandatory and discretionary obligations between parties in the procurement process. Increased transparency is better for everyone.
We look forward to working with this new streamlined directive. With the laws opening up new contracts for more businesses, competition will inevitably increase, which means the services offered by bid writing experts like Thornton & Lowe will be as invaluable as ever.