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The Future of Social Care Tendering Post Brexit
Public sector tendering is challenging, bogged down by red tape, inefficiencies and for those of you who have ever been on the receiving end of a poorly run tendering process, frustrating.
When the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement ended on 31st December 2020, the first step in overhauling the unwieldy public procurement process was to replace the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) to advertise public opportunities, with a national portal replacing that requirement called “Find a Tender Service”.
With a forthright Ministerial foreword, on 15th December, the Government published a Green Paper “Transforming Public Procurement” promising to abandon complicated, stifling processes. Creating a culture where processes are simplified, accelerated and putting value for money at the heart of everything.
The sweeping proposals emphasise the Government drive to promote greater opportunities for startups, small businesses, voluntary, charitable and social enterprises, a welcome change for smaller social care providers often squeezed out by bigger players in public sector tendering.
By slashing over 350 regulations, the plan will result in a single uniform framework. It proposes replacing procurement procedures with three simple, modern procedures:
- A new flexible procedure that gives buyers the freedom to negotiate and innovate to get the best from the private, charity and social enterprise sectors
- An open procedure that buyers can use for simpler, ‘off the shelf’ competitions
- A limited tendering procedure that buyers can use in certain circumstances, such as in crisis or extreme urgency
The secrecy surrounding the awards of tenders is also up for an overhaul. Scrapping the standstill debrief letters, which provide tailored feedback on the tenders and replacing it with a fully transparent approach where commissioners must publish the names of all bidders, the basis of the award decision, all tenders received (with commercially sensitive information redacted), and all evaluation reports, notes and scoring. For providers, is this a threat or an opportunity? It is always a valuable post-tender exercise to assess whether a fair process has taken place, but as a provider how comfortable will you be when other providers can access what you have bid for, your scoring and the content of your bid?
Interestingly, once aspect of the Green Paper is to explore the feasibility of barring firms from acquiring public sector workers if they are regarded as unsuitable. The Government admit that this will be a complicated process to introduce, but it could potentially see firms added to a debarment list where they have committed actions that fall within some of the discretionary exclusion grounds. Examples of these grounds could be fraud, conflicts of interest, distortion of competition and undue influence. The debarment could be enforced even if poor performance hasn’t led to termination, damages or other sanctions.
In a move to influence local commissioning, strategies to support national priorities, the Green Paper seeks to ensure that public procurement is leveraged to promote social and environmental value to have a positive impact on the wider community. QCS have covered this subject in our Social Value Policy and Procedure and this proposal seeks to make it clearer the ways at which value for money is assessed.
At seventy-nine pages long, the Green Paper isn’t a quick read but if you do, or are considering tendering for public contracts it is worth reading and making sure your opinions are heard ahead of the consultation deadline on 10th March.
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