As discussed in my previous blog post, the new 2015 Regulations have brought in new requirements surrounding the issuing of procurement documents electronically. In addition to this the new Regulations have also brought in incentives for contracting authorities to require electronic submission of tenders. Under the EU rules this will also need to be made mandatory by the UK Government in the next few years. This blog post will focus on what the new rules currently say and what the future may hold.
What were the rules previously?
Under the previous 2006 Public Contracts Regulations contracting authorities were free to choose whether they required submissions to be made electronically, by paper or a combination of both. Few rules were set other than responses being submitted electronically were to be treated ‘on a par’ with paper responses.
What are the new rules?
Under the current Regulations the electronic submission of tenders is not yet mandatory however it is incentivised. A contracting authority can apply reductions in time-scales if requiring electronic submission of tenders. These reductions are as follows:
- Open Procedure – the minimum time limits can be reduced from 35 days to 30 days.
- Restricted Procedure – the minimum time limits for the second stage can be reduced from 30 days to 25 days.
- Competitive Procedure with Negotiation – the minimum time limits for the second stage can be reduced from 30 days to 25 days.
- Innovative Partnership – the minimum time limits for the second stage can be reduced from 30 days to 25 days.
What constitutes “electronic submission of tenders”?
Regulation 22 details the rules applicable to electronic submission of tenders. The submission of responses via e-mail would not be compliant with these rules. A facility such as Millstream’s mytenders Pro “postbox” facility would need to be used by a contracting authority for them to be compliant. The rules worth noting are as follows:
- The submission tool shall be non-discriminatory, generally available and interoperable with the information and communication technology products in general use and shall not restrict economic operators’ access.
- The integrity of data and the confidentiality of tenders and requests to participate must be preserved.
- Contracting authorities are not to examine the content of tenders and requests to participate until after the time limit set for submitting them has expired.
- The tool used for the submission of tenders must guarantee:
- the exact time and date of the submission.
- that no-one has access to data transmitted prior to the set deadline for submissions.
- only authorised persons may set or change the dates for opening data received.
- only authorised persons may access the data.
- only authorised persons may give access to data transmitted and only after the set deadline for submissions.
- data remains accessible to authorised persons.
- that any infringement, or attempted infringement, of the access prohibitions or conditions is clearly detectable.
What does the future hold?
The 2014 EU Directive on Public Procurement has dictated that each member state must mandate electronic submissions for central purchasing bodies by March 2017 and for contracting authorities by September 2018. This has not been incorporated into the new 2015 Regulations so these Regulation will require further reform prior to March 2017.
The use of electronic submissions has remained relatively low across Europe. A study carried out for the European Commission in 2013 estimated the level of up-take of electronic submission of tenders in the EU at about 10% in 2011. The commission have, however, declared that mandating electronic submissions would be an important step towards reaping the benefits offered by e-procurement. They have implied that a system cannot be seen to be providing a fully electronic service unless it also includes electronic submissions. It is therefore unsurprising that electronic submissions will eventually be made mandatory under the 2014 Public Sector Directive. The delay in mandating this may be in recognition of the fact that these changes may require changes to the business processes of contracting authorities or it could be to allow contracting authorities time to advance their electronic procurement systems. Regardless of the reasoning, the incentive to use electronic submissions does seem an adequate stepping stone to prepare contracting authorities and suppliers for the impending mandatory requirement.
How can Millstream help?
As mentioned above, Millstream’s mytenders service can help. mytenders Pro provides contracting authorities with the “postbox” facility. This facility meets all of the above requirements to ensure contracting authorities remain compliant when requiring electronic submissions. In addition, the support desk is available from 8am to 5pm to assist suppliers making submissions to postbox’s. For more information on how mytenders can help ease you into the impending electronic submission requirements and more please do not hesitate to get in touch.