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.
More mandatory fields
Firstly, we will see more mandatory information provided in the new forms. There are some clear benefits here. The contract notice is the first information the supplier will see and they will often use the initial information and make a decision on whether to pursue the opportunity. With more information available they will have a better foundation for making such a call. One example of a mandatory field in contract notices is that the contracting authorities must provide an estimated value. This clearly puts suppliers in a better position to know what a contract is likely to be worth and if they should go for it. It is also a requirement for the buyer to provide the total final value of the contract. For governments, buyers and the EU the collected statistical data will be immensely improved and further transparency can only be a good thing. On the other hand, will competition be lost in the process? If all suppliers competing for a contract know the price the contracting authority is expecting, will all the bids be around the same price?
Prior information notices as call for competition
Sub-central authorities can now use a prior information notice (PIN) as a call for competition, without publishing any further notices. Although this is clearly a simplification for sub-central authorities, in the sense that they have to put less information into the public domain, I fail to see much of an advantage for suppliers. Suppliers will have to change how they perceive PINs – they can no longer ignore them and wait for further information to be provided in a contract notice. Suppliers who want to participate in the competition have to express their interest to the contracting authority within the deadline of the PIN. There is less visibility in this process, as the PIN does not require the same amount of information at the time of publication as a contract notice.
Once a contract has been signed there is very little visibility to how that contract is run and the costs associated with it. Contracting authorities who makes changes to current contracts have always had some scope within the regulations to do so. With this new form contracting authorities now have an obligation to publish any changes they make. I can see that contracting authorities will find this cumbersome, just adding to their paperwork, however for suppliers this is a great step towards visibility.
Notices for social and specific services
With the new regulations, part B services have been removed and instead replaced with a “light touch regime”. More details can be found in this previous blog about the subject, however with regards to the new forms this means that contracting authorities purchasing social and specific services have to use special forms designed for the light touch regime. Are these additional forms really needed? Rather than a dedicated form it may have been easier to amend the forms used for normal works, supplier and services and to flag the notice as social and specific services instead.
Overall I think the new forms are an improvement on the old ones simplifying the procurement process and enabling greater transparency, though there is still room for improvement. What are your thoughts on the new forms? What effect will they have on your approach to procurement? Let us know in the comments.
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