Tenders Direct Blog

Comment from the experts at Tenders Direct.

Below Threshold procurement advertising

Posted by Nelson Poon on February 1, 2016

The Public Contracts Regulation 2015 was enforced on the 26th February 2015. With the introduction of the new regulations, there have been a few changes that have affected the publication of Low Value/Sub-OJEU notices.

Below is a summary of the changes that have been made which affect Low Value/Sub-OJEU notices:

Contracts Finder

Contracts with a value over £25,000 (£10,000 for Central Government) must be advertised on the Crown Commercial Service site aka Contracts Finder. This includes contracts between £25,000 and the European threshold £172,514 and to notices published in the Official Journal. Further details on Contracts Finder can be read on a previously published blog.

Part B Services v Light Touch Regime:

Under the previous regulations, services were split into Part A and Part B. All services fell into one of 27 service categories, where  1-16 were Part A and subject to the full procurement regulations whereas Part B were service categories 17-27 and were essentially exempt from the rules (although an award notice was required).

Section 7 of The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 details the rules surrounding the procurement of services that are considered “social and other specific services” and above the set threshold of EUR 750 000. As explained in the EU fact sheet on a new simplified regime for service contracts the “contracting authorities have to publicise in advance their intention to award contracts of this value and announce the contract award decision after the procedure”. This is known as the ‘Light Touch Regime’. Further details on Light Touch can be read here.

PINs in Restricted Procedures:

PIN can now be used, by sub-central contracting authorities, as a means of calling for competition in place of a contract notice (Regulation 28) and can also be used in place of a PQQ stage with selected suppliers being taken straight to the tendering stage. This is in addition to the traditional use of a PIN which is to notify the market of a possible opportunity so, under the new regulations; the PIN has a dual function. If the PIN is being used as a call to competition it must contain the information in Annex V Part B I and II in the 2014 Procurement Directive. For further information on this please see the previous blog published on this.

Ban on PQQs:

As part of the Public Sector Directive 2015 the Cabinet Office has introduced strong restrictions on Public Sector Buyers when it comes to prequalification of suppliers and the use of supplier questionnaires as per Lord Young’s report. Arguably, in doing so this can benefit Suppliers as they will be asked relevant and proportionate questions, which could make it easier for SMEs and VCOs to participate. More details can be found by reading the article Ban on PQQs.

Electronic Documents

Regulation 53 of the Public Contracts Regulations states that “contracting authorities shall, by means of the internet, offer unrestricted and full direct access free of charge to the procurement documents”. In essence, all documents must be electronically available via URL or on the notice itself (This can be done with Millstream’s myTenders Pro) from the start of the procedure. Sending out documents by e-mail does not fall under full direct access as per Regulation 53(2) as “readily available” access has to be made available at any time and therefore emailing of documents does not satisfy this requirement as it relies on the actions of the contracting authority (they are not readily available at any time). To read a more detailed information on this, please see follow the following link to a previous blog Electronic Documents.

If you would like Millstream to publish a blog on a certain topic, whether it be relating to the 2015 Regulation or not, please do not hesitate to comment.

Millstream also offers a wide range of training and consultancy to enable buyers and suppliers to tender more successfully.  More information about public and in-house training courses and consultancy options can be found at: www.millstreamlearning.eu/

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New standard forms for OJEU notices. Simplification or burden?

Posted by Line Olsen on January 13, 2016

The EU published the new standard forms for OJEU notices on 12th November 2015. In England and Wales, where The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 came into force in February 2015, the new standard forms for public sector came into force on 3rd of December 2015. It will be some time before all contracting authorities are using the new forms but a few are trickling in and you might have seen some of these on Tenders Direct already.

The new forms reflect the simplified rules and procedures of the new EU Directives. In this blog I will highlight some of the biggest changes we will see with the new forms and flag up some of the pros and cons they present to both buyers and suppliers.

Read the rest of this entry »

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New Public Procurement thresholds 2016/2017

Posted by Duncan Dallas on December 29, 2015

The European Commission has confirmed the new financial thresholds to be applied to public procurement. The new thresholds will apply from 1st January 2016 and be in place until the end of 2017.

When procuring goods or services over the financial threshold a public authority must do so under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland has not yet transposed the new EU directive and so is still operating under the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulation 2012. The new thresholds apply to all European Union member states irrespective of whether they have introduced the European legislation, which in any case they must do by April 2016.

The main point of interest from our readers’ perspectives is that buying organisations must advertise any requirement over the new thresholds in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), rather than just advertising it nationally. The calculation of the estimated value of a procurement shall be based on the total amount payable, net of VAT, as estimated by the contracting authority, including any form of option and any renewals of the contracts as explicitly set out in the procurement documents.

The European Union is also a signatory to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and so compliance with the European procurement directives is designed to ensure compliance with the GPA. While European legislation sets out the financial thresholds in Euros, the GPA defines them in the form of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which is an asset established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The value of the SDR varies daily and is based on the relative values of a basket of currencies consisting of the euro, Japanese yen, pound sterling, and U.S. dollar.While this time around the thresholds have been increased in Euros, the equivalent sterling value has actually decreased because of the strength of sterling against the Euro.

For UK buyers this means that they now have to publish more of their requirements, rather than less, in the OJEU and if anything is going to be more of a burden on their resources as they must adhere to stricter and more bureaucratic rules.

For UK suppliers this means that from 2015 to 2016 more UK contracts but less European contracts will be subject to OJEU publication. This could well mean that the competition on our own national contracts from across the channel will be stiffer but anyone from the UK looking to bid on EU contracts will have less opportunity than before.

A corporate blog wouldn’t be a corporate blog without me telling you our solution to the problems. For buying organisation’s in England we provide the mytenders service, which allows buying organisations to manage their OJEU and non-OJEU procurement exercises. Our helpdesk are well versed in EU procurement law, with some working towards the LLM Public Procurement Policy and Law at Nottingham University and another two having already attained distinction in this qualification. For suppliers we provide the Tenders Direct service, providing all the OJEU notices and sourcing all the sub-OJEU notices in the UK to give you our market leading notice alert service.

And so on to the new thresholds. I have provided the previous thresholds for 2014-2015 in brackets for reference.

PUBLIC CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Central Government £106,047 (£111,676)€135,000 (€134,000) £4,104,394 (£4,322,012)€5,225,000 (€5,186,000) £589,148 (n/a)             €750,000 (n/a)
Other contracting authorities £164,176 (£172,514)€209,000 (€207,000) £4,104,394 (£4,322,012)€5,225,000 (€5,186,000) £589,148 (n/a)            €750,000 (n/a)
Small lots £62,842 (£66,672)      €84,000 (€80,000) £785,530 (£833,400)€1,000,000 (€1,000,000) n/a

 

Social and other specific services are subject to the new ‘light touch regime’ as described in a previous blog.

UTILITY CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Utility authorities £328,352 (£345,028)€418,000 (€414,000) £4,104,394 (£4,322,012)€5,225,000 (€5,186,000) £785,530 (n/a)             €1,000,000 (n/a)

 

DEFENCE AND SECURITY CONTRACTS

Supply, Services and Design Contracts Works Contracts Social and other specific services
Defence and Security authorities £328,352 (£345,028)€418,000 (€414,000) £4,104,394 (£4,322,012)€5,225,000 (€5,186,000)  

n/a

 

As ever, please don’t hesitate to let us know what you think by commenting below.

Posted in General Procurement, Politics of Procurement, Procurement Law | 3 Comments »

The commercialisation of space

Posted by John Cutt on December 17, 2015

In case you hadn’t heard – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is released in the UK today. We decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up without a related blog entry. NO SPOILERS are included below…

Recently I was intrigued to discover a contract notice entitled “Space Mission” published in the global hub of space exploration that is Swindon. Alas, it was not a design and build contract for the Death Star. Instead, UK Shared Business Services were seeking a contractor to assist in opening up the US space sector to UK entrepreneurs. While the private sector has always provided the logistical backbone of space flight – hugely successful conglomerates such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing flourished as suppliers to NASA during the Space Race – humanity’s reach for the stars is increasingly facilitated by private contractors. Indeed, there are growing indications that commercial interests may ultimately replace the quest for scientific knowledge as the primary driver of innovation in the space sector.

NASA now outsources its unmanned supply missions to the International Space Station to California based contractor SpaceX. Retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011 left a capability gap for manned flight; with a replacement platform still some way from fruition, NASA now depends on Russia’s Federal Space Agency to transport its astronauts to the ISS. Reliance on a foreign rival is seen by some in the US as damaging to national prestige and has undoubtedly catalysed the development of private sector expertise in space flight technology. NASA’s decision to award contracts for manned crew rotations to the ISS earlier this year to both SpaceX and Boeing – provisionally scheduled for 2017 – can be seen not only as an attempt to reinstate domestic capability, but also a pragmatic reaction to budgetary pressures. NASA – like so many public sector bodies – has recognised the monetary benefits of outsourcing and the potential of private investment to drive innovation. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – a bold attempt to apply the business model of commercial airlines to orbital flight – epitomises the drive to transform space travel into a profit making enterprise.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Christmas time…tendering time (or just mistletoe and wine!)

Posted by Cindy Cheng on December 14, 2015

Public sector tendering probably isn’t the first thought that springs to mind when you’re off to see the Christmas lights switch on while sipping on your mulled wine. Many of us will have finished our Christmas shopping by now…right? What a hopeful thought! Although it might not be in our second nature to be super prepared for Christmas (not to say some of us aren’t) – local authorities across the UK are already preparing for future Christmas’ with the issue of public sector notices. It may not seem logical for us to start writing our Christmas wish list for the next few years but it certainly should be the norm for local SMEs to be considering their preparation to search and respond to tender for future fulfilment in 2016, 2017, and 2018 and possibly beyond.

Our Tenders Direct team searched for the term ‘Christmas’ on our comprehensive database, and, recent figures show a rise of 28% in public sector notices supplying Christmas related services, requirements and products between October 2013 – November 2015.

We have noticed in particular that the increasingly popular Winter Wonderland Market Events have contributed to the rising volume of Christmas related tenders in the country. As these events dominate numerous cities across the UK, tenders released will range from councils in Oxford to Derbyshire, Southampton to Glasgow, Dublin and Cork seeking for services including: erection and installation of event infrastructure, outdoor event management, stewards, CCTV, crowd management, event planners, set and design, supply of funfairs, Christmas light switch on performances and festive catering. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pet Hates of Suppliers (What not to do if you are a buyer)

Posted by David Law on December 7, 2015

A few months ago my colleague Cindy published a blog on the Pet Hates of Buyers which went through some of the main issues that buyers have had when dealing with suppliers. This blog will consider the other side of the coin and cover some of the pet hates that suppliers have when bidding for tenders.

Through my experience working in the Tenders Direct support team I have put together this blog from feedback that we have received from our customers and other external companies that are involved in public sector tendering.

The issues can be broken down into two main areas. Firstly all issues relating to the tendering process (planning, identifying the needs, market analysis and tendering) and secondly all issues that relate to the post tender activities (contract management, supplier relationship management and the actual performance of the contract). Read the rest of this entry »

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The 2015 Regulations on the aggregation of contracts and the use of Lots

Posted by Kim Postlethwaite on November 23, 2015

The aggregation of contracts refers to the grouping together of similar contracts. The requirement to aggregate contracts is not a new obligation however has been the subject of much confusion in the past. This blog post will aim to clarify when requirements are to be aggregated for the purpose of calculating the value of a contract and, more importantly, when specific Lots can be exempt from the rules. Read the rest of this entry »

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Remember Remember Your Tenders in November!

Posted by John Cutt on November 3, 2015

Alone with his thoughts in the dank cellar below the House of Lords, Guy Fawkes imagined the display of pageantry that would occur above him when King James I arrived later that day for the State Opening of Parliament. This war veteran from Yorkshire, however, had a very different spectacle in mind: the detonation of 36 barrels of gunpowder directly beneath the King’s feet. With James dead, Fawkes and his fellow conspirators hoped to instigate a popular uprising and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. He just had to remain undiscovered for a few more hours…

A noise… his heart skipped a beat. Footsteps!

It’s fascinating to think that the actions of a few individuals in the distant past can continue to influence our lives centuries later. In his moments of introspection in the cellar, Guy Fawkes probably didn’t imagine that his effigy would be burned as part of a widely recognised annual cultural event over four hundred years after his death; he surely wouldn’t have had the remotest idea that an extensive publicly funded supply chain would be required to make it happen!

Read the rest of this entry »

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Tendering across Europe – How to step out of the UK

Posted by David Law on October 26, 2015

With £714 billion being spent on the public sector in the UK in 2014 you may feel that there is plenty of business to go around. However, if you are considering broadening your options or want to look further afield you could consider bidding for tenders across the European Union.

The European Union was created on the basis of it being a single market which includes the free movement of goods, capital, people and services across all member states. In practice this means that a UK company should have an equal chance of winning a tender in a different EU member state as the local companies and there should be no barrier to intra-EU trade. We often hear of dissatisfaction that local contracts in the UK have been awarded to non-local suppliers and so this could be considered the other side of that coin.

While it may seem like it is easy to go for these types of opportunities there are certain things that need to be considered before taking the leap! All the points made by my colleague Gemma on this blog: How SMEs can break into the public sector will apply but there will be other aspects that will need to be considered as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Introduction to new bloggers – your ideas welcome!

Posted by Duncan Dallas on October 20, 2015

I’d like to introduce two new bloggers to the Tenders Direct blog. I’m Duncan Dallas and I am the Government Contracts Manager at Millstream. I am responsible for the national public procurement advertising portals that we operate – Sell2Wales and Public Contracts Scotland. As both buyers and suppliers use these portals I’m interested in both sides of the procurement process and particularly in improving the communication between the two. Outside of work I’m a music and football obsessive.

John Cutt has also joined the blogging team. John is one of the Tender Reviewers for Tenders Direct. A large part of John’s role is to review every single notice that is processed through the Tenders Direct service to ensure that it is allocated the correct categories and reaches the right clients. John is our resident Trekkie and has an interest in military history (on earth and in space).

Now that the introductions are over we’d like to hear from our readership on what procurement related topics you’d like to see this blog cover. This isn’t to suggest that we’re running dry of ideas – we have an exciting schedule coming up – it’s just that we’d like to have input from you. Is there anything specific you’d like us to inform on? Are there any clarifications relating to the new procurement regulations required? Please leave a message below!

Posted in General Procurement | 2 Comments »

 
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