The Cabinet Office has published three notes in quick succession which aim to add detail to the aspirational mission statement that it set out in the 2020 Public Procurement Green Paper.
This note reaffirms some of the Green Paper's aims, asserting that all contracting authorities should consider the "national priority outcomes" of creating new businesses, new jobs, new skills, tackling climate change and reducing waste, improving supplier diversity, innovation and resilience. It also sets the tone for public procurement going forward.
The PPN builds on previously published guidance, stating that contracting authorities should ensure that there is a clear correlation between the complexity, cost and risk of a project, and the processes and governance they have in place to manage those projects. Authorities must therefore use specific methods to manage to their most important contracts, rather than employing a one-size-fits-all approach.
Contracting authorities are encouraged to undertake an assessment of their procurement and contract management capability as the Government intends to bring forward legislation to ensure that the aims set out in the Green Paper are achieved. In particular, it is intended that from April 2022, legislation will require contracting authorities with an annual spend of £200m or more will be required to publish their procurement pipelines and to benchmark their procurement capability against comparable organisations. The intention is then for the £200m threshold to be lowered to £100m from April 2023.
The overriding aim of the benchmarking is to give contracting authorities an understanding of whether their procurement skills are sufficient to deliver value for money, as well as raising their awareness to as-yet-unstated future reforms to the public procurement regulations. Whilst the horizon does not extend beyond April 2023, it could reasonably be assumed that the annual spend threshold may be further reduced, until most authorities are covered by the requirements.
In this note, the Cabinet Office unveils the plan UK Government has for procurement to help reach its target of 'Net Zero' carbon emissions by 2050.
For procurements advertised on or after 30 September 2021, this note requires in-scope organisations to include, as a selection criterion, a requirement for bidding suppliers to provide a Carbon Reduction Plan (CRP) confirming commitment to their part in achieving Net Zero. A template for this is provided as an annex to the PPN and CRPs must meet the standards set out in the supporting guidance. Supporting their plan, suppliers must set out the environmental measures they have in place, and which of those measures will be in effect and utilised during the performance of the contract. Included in the plan should be reporting on the supplier's Greenhouse Gas emissions. There is no elaboration in the guidance on the intervals at which the reporting should take place. The PPN stipulates that the supplier must sign off the plan at an appropriate level within 12 months of the procurement date and must publish it on their website.
The scope of PPN 06/21 applies to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies, and Non Departmental Public Bodies. These organisations will be required to apply PPN 06/21 when procuring goods and/or services and/or works which are subject to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, where there is an anticipated contract value of £5 million per annum and above (excluding VAT). There is however an exception where this would not be related and proportionate to the contract.
We can assume that the value threshold may be further reduced to catch an increasing number of contracts as the 2050 target draws closer.
This note consolidates and updates previous guidance on publication of opportunities and awards. This includes the introduction of Find a Tender service (FTS), the UK's new platform for organisations to publish procurement opportunities. The note helpfully brings together detailed guidance on publication and it should be noted that there have been some changes, such as the timescales for publishing details of contract awards for Central Government authorities (from 20 days after the standstill period to a flat 30 days after contract award).
This marks another milestone in the shift away from the EU's procurement structure. The scope of organisations who should begin publishing on FTS mirrors the scope of organisations who should publish on Contracts Finder. Both services will run parallel to each other for now, although the Cabinet Office expressly states that notices must be published on FTS before being published anywhere else. The PPN guidance promotes FTS as a more efficient service by explaining that, unlike OJEU/TED, there is no delay in publication of notices to the platform.
The three PPNs make it clear that the Cabinet Office is seeking to use Brexit as an opportunity to increase accountability within procurement, focusing on value for money and national priority outcomes. Suppliers and contracting authorities not yet caught by the procurement thresholds should aim to follow these guidelines in anticipation of the Cabinet Office widening its net over the course of this decade. For those already caught, it is likely that there will be further changes and updates on the horizon, as the Cabinet Office seeks to add increasing detail to its new procurement policy.