As the EU Public Sector Procurement Directive 2014/24/EU becomes business as usual, how do professional buyers follow the often complicated legal requirements whilst doing more with less? Interestingly, many organisations already have the answer – they just don’t fully recognise it…
Whether you’re involved in Central, Regional or Local Government, the NHS or MOD procurement; priority has tended to focus on ensuring business processes and stakeholders are aligned to the regulation updates. From the Contracting Authority’s perspective, implementation of any new rule, law, business process or legislation pretty much always has a ripple effect that touches most aspects of a business and all of the people in it to some degree. For public sector authorities in the UK, the new provisions are complex, and if not incorporated correctly could result in costly and time-consuming litigation.
Mature procurement organisations are likely to use sophisticated procurement technologies and yet little thought is given to effectively aligning the revised internal policies and procedures to best fit within the capabilities of these solutions. Due consideration should be given to ensuring you make proper use of your applications, giving you the best possible start in tackling the challenges posed by the updated regulations?
“67% of respondents feel that they are constrained in the way that they are able to use the technology by internal policies and procedures.”
Source: The Atos Procurement Technology Satisfaction Survey 2014
There are several areas where technology can assist across many of the reforms. For example, regulations 105-114 are aimed at eliminating burdensome and disproportionate questions being asked by the Contracting Authority. You might be wondering what this has got to do with technology. Procurement solutions can play an integral part in maintaining a standard set of supplier questions, negating the need for the Authority to ask the same questions over and over. However, whilst this capability streamlines the procurement process, it’s important to take the provisions seriously; noting that there are situations where organisations use a common set of criteria and evidence requirements across all their procurements. This may be disproportionate; for example, where the buyer asks for significant public liability insurances on small value service contracts – it happens all too often by mistake. Here, the right procurement solution can also help ensure that your new questions and weightings are standardised and approved - reinforcing governance, but also requiring human intervention to ensure proportionality and relevance.
The legislation introduces a new procedure to promote the development of innovative products, services or works. It also encourages authorities to divide up large contracts into individual lots to facilitate the participation of small companies. It’s worth noting the level of additional complexity this could introduce - more contracts, more bidders, different criteria based on smaller requirements. Procurement technology has been proven to significantly reduce the time and risk inherent in managing such large volumes of information.
The regulations give a renewed focus on self-declarations; procurement technologies can significantly simplify the process of bidder self-declarations with web forms taking the place of large volumes of documentation. There will also be a greater focus on improved safeguards from corruption and especially deals with safeguards against conflict of interest. With the right tools, stakeholders can easily confirm they understand their responsibilities as evaluators, that they are sufficiently experienced and have no conflict of interest. These clicks and/or the user’s electronic signature can be date stamped within the system and are an effective way of collecting information for audit purposes.
Perhaps the most significant change to the regulations is the potential to exclude suppliers on the basis of poor performance in previous contracts. It’s not clear how this will be applied and regulated – suppliers are very likely to be litigious in this area if they feel they weren’t effectively consulted or notified of concerns in the delivery of the last piece of work. Used effectively, technologies combined with the new regulations give authorities significant power to drive change in suppliers’ behaviours going forward.
Possibly the most obvious move towards the use of technology is the requirement for documentation to be available electronically. Full electronic communication (by April 2017) for public procurement will be “expressly permitted” removing any doubt as to their legality. More subtle nods could be found in the reduction of the statutory time limits by which suppliers have to respond to opportunities and submit their bids. Procurement technologies can only help authorities to streamline their processes and meet these more stringent timescales.
For the supplier community, getting a detailed understanding of what directive 2014/24/EU means for your business can be seen as a key factor in getting ahead of your competitors. As a Bid Director you could still be trying to figure out how your latest submission will be affected by the changes. As an SME, how could the changes open up access to the public procurement market?
For purchasing authorities, it’s important to fully understand the implications of the new regulations and how existing systems can help. Now is the best time to address any policy constraints and, wherever possible, change processes to fit the functionality rather than incurring the cost of doing the reverse.
With expert guidance combined with best-of-breed feature-rich technology solutions, buyers can manage all their project requirements whilst successfully on-boarding and managing internal and external stakeholders. It might be easier said than done, but the regulation updates provide the opportunity for technology to help remove complicated theories and return to the main principles of what you do – to achieve excellence in procurement.