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04th March 2012

Shake up of public sector procurement

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The Royal Institute of British Architects is holding a Forum on Public Procurement on 8th March at the SmartLife Low Carbon Centre in Cambridge. Colin Jones partner with Hewitsons Construction and Procurement team is speaking at the event which comes at a time when the Government is promising a shake up of the rules governing the procurement by public bodies of contracts for works, services and supplies. Bodies related to the construction industry in particular, such as the RIBA, are keen to see a reduction in what are undoubtedly sound procurement principles, but which in practical terms can sometimes become overly burdensome sets of practices and procedures governing the procurement of design and construction services and which are viewed as inhibiting economic growth and activity in the construction sector when it is needed most. The background is that the UK’s membership of the European Union means that along with all other EU member states, publicly funded or managed bodies (e.g. local authorities, Government departments and related entities) must comply with procedures relating to contract procurement which are intended to ensure that tender opportunities are opened up to contractors and suppliers from any part of the EU. Also, tender procedures are to be followed which are transparent and non discriminatory. The Public Contracts Regulations 2006 set out the procedures which are to be followed in the UK. However, whether you are public body bound by the Regulations or a prospective contractor or other supplier hoping to secure a public contract, there is a vast bank of case law as well as UK and EU procurement guidance that needs to be understood in order to navigate through a typical public procurement process. The EU Commission has itself instigated a review of public procurement rules in order to establish whether they are inhibiting fair and open competition. The UK Government is also intent on “modernising” the rules in this area in order to tackle what is seen to be an often over bureaucratic, costly and overly risk adverse process, with the aim of setting up a more effective public procurement regime. The RIBA along with construction industry representatives such as the Design Council CABE have made submissions as part of the UK Government review and have supported the call for reforms in this area in order to promote growth, but also the good design of construction projects. CABE recently published a code of practice which is aimed at simplifying what it sees as the current complex system for the procurement of design in order to deliver better value for money for clients and to benefit the public by creating better quality projects. The key features of the new code include, early expert procurement advice to public sector clients, appropriate selection criteria, more relevant requirements in relation to size, scale and experience of practices and fair tender scoring systems. The RIBA will be publishing its Procurement Reform report entitled ‘Building ladders of opportunity’ and the Forum on 8th March will have an opportunity to provide feedback on a draft of the report which will be lead by the RIBA’s Walter Menteth, Chairman of the RIBA’s Procurement Reform Group. For more details of the Forum contact Louise Todd at RIBA East on or Colin Jones on