Category: Uncategorized

Wales: a clarification

Wales football

After drawing Wales in the Euro 2016 office sweepstake a few weeks ago, I may have inadvertently given the impression to my colleagues that I was in some way not utterly ecstatic at the outcome. I now accept that my use of various profanities and the term “unmitigated disaster” may have misconstrued my true feelings on the subject. I am happy to clarify that I have always had the utmost confidence in the Welsh national team, fully expected them to make it to the semi-finals as a minimum and consider it a privilege to have invested £2.00 in their endeavour to stay in Europe (albeit for football and binge drinking only).

Although Millstream specialises in public procurement rather than football punditry, we have been impressed by the interest shown by some attendees of the tournament in our area of expertise: it was particularly gratifying to see a fringe element of Remain supporting England fans attempting to stimulate French public sector expenditure by facilitating massive overtime payments to the Gendarmes and street sweepers of Marseilles and Lille. Faced with a wave of criticism after the abject humiliation of his team of spoilt divas being defeated by plucky Icelandic amateurs, England manager Roy Hodgson reluctantly agreed to face the media despite being privately encouraged by Boris Johnson to follow his lead by abdicating all responsibility for the outcome.

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Millstream’s Tenders Direct & Brexit

BrexitClearly Brexit is a very hot topic at the moment and most people are probably wondering what it will mean for their lives both personally and professionally. Although public procurement is governed by UK regulations, these originated in EU Directives so we thought it might be helpful to set out our views on how Brexit might affect the service we provide to you through Tenders Direct.

  1. What happens now?

Well at the moment, nothing changes; this includes the financial thresholds that govern whether a contract must be published at a European level in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Although the value of the pound has dropped against the Euro following the vote to leave, the exchange rate for procurement purposes is fixed at 2 yearly intervals and so it is not due to be revised until 1st January 2018.

The two year period of negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the EU will not begin until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked by the UK giving formal notice. In the meantime, the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 the Concession Contracts Regulations and the Scottish equivalents of these regulations (“the Public Procurement Regulations“) still apply and are in full force. This means that contracting authorities need to continue to comply with the rules and bidders can continue to enforce their rights if they believe there has been a breach.

Continue reading “Millstream’s Tenders Direct & Brexit”

Millstream reaction to Brexit vote

After months of campaigning, debates and opinion polls the people have spoken and decided that Britain should leave the European Union. Once the dust has settled on the result the long and arduous task of the Government negotiating an exit will begin.

One of the key questions coming out of this result is: will the UK retain access to the Single Market, through membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)? This is what Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland have done but it remains to be seen whether the UK will decide to pursue this option as it will require us to contribute to the EU budget, accept the free movement of EU citizens and to implement European legislation relating to the Single Market. The obligations are very similar to those required of full EU members, but without representation on any of the decision making bodies. It is also doubtful whether the EU will agree to UK membership of EFTA.

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Public Sector Construction – Getting better all the time

The Public Sector is providing more and more contracts for Construction sector suppliers. Although times were tough for the industry following the recession, things have rebounded and opportunities have never looked better for suppliers and contractors working with the Public Sector. The future looks brighter still with this sector having a projected average growth of 2.6% from 2015-18.

Certain sub-sectors of construction have had significant increases over the past year. A 12% increase in road related tenders, 8% increase in new build tenders, 25% increase in architecture/design team tenders and the biggest increase is in the renewable energy sector (areas like solar power, wind power and geothermal) of around 35%.

With the High Speed 2 project, floods defence work, major road schemes across the UK, along with affordable housing and other projects it’s no surprise that things have rebounded in this sector.

Millstream has created an infographic on this to highlight the key facts and you can view this here: Construction Infographic

More than 4,000 private sector companies use Tenders Direct to find new business opportunities, of those over 950 are construction businesses, accounting for around 22% of the customer base. Tenders Direct work with thousands of public sector organisations in the UK, Ireland and Norway to publicise their contracts, allowing direct access to contracts that many are unaware of. The dedicated research team solely identify contracts and include them within the Tenders Direct database – many of these are smaller contracts that would not be published by the Official Journal (OJEU) or on any other central resource.

The Tenders Direct team, also manually categorise all tenders to ensure that only highly relevant opportunities are provided and therefore personalised to individual preferences and areas of specialism and are sent to subscribers every day.

To find out how Millstream can help you find opportunities in public sector construction, call 0800 270 0249 or visit www.millstream.eu

 

Watching the weather change

As we all realise to our horror that developing a beach body in time for summer is now completely out of the question, we can at least take comfort in the knowledge that cold weather is now firmly behind us. With the exception of those of the ski holiday inclination, our experience of life is undeniably lessened by the harsh winter months. Perhaps the miserable success rate of the solemn resolutions we make to ourselves at the turn of each year has more to do with January being an inopportune time to enact behavioural change, rather than a personal lack of willpower: cravings for unhealthy snacks are more difficult to combat while enduring sub-zero temperatures, a glass of wine never so tempting than when stuck indoors on a wintry evening. But as we wake to sunshine and birdsong instead of darkness and rain, personal renewal feels more like an urge than an effort. Imagine you had felt as energised as you do on a day of blazing sunshine and outdoor activities when you were lazing on the couch gorging on chocolate in the first months of the new year… you could have had a beach body by now.

One of the pleasures of this time of year is the spectacle of the previously barren natural world flourishing with life and colour once more. In the countryside, fledgling crops of all kinds grow in the fields as farmers hope for a bountiful harvest in the autumn. While some of us may be inspired by springtime in our own efforts to grow, farmers are beholden to the seasons in a material sense. While the ancient endeavour of agriculture was initially driven by subsistence, in modern times it is an industry like any other. While most of us do not make a living from the soil, the acquired wisdom of a veteran farmer can be of use to a company in any sector: sow only the finest seeds, plant varied crops in different fields, use ever more efficient and productive techniques. Above all, avoid over-reliance on the same field lest the nutrients be drained from the soil. Like farmers, we would do well in our personal and professional lives to learn the lessons of past harvests and change our methods accordingly.

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Regulation Day

At the beginning of this week we saw a number of regulations being transposed in the UK. These are as follows:

Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015

New regulations transposing the 2014 EU Public Procurement Directive were laid in the Scottish Parliament on 18th December 2015 and came in to force earlier this week, 18th April 2016.

A brief summary of the changes that will affect Contracting Authorities are as follows: Continue reading “Regulation Day”

An Update on Framework Agreements

What is a Framework Agreement?

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 came into force in February 2015 and defined a Framework Agreement under Regulation 33 as:

“an agreement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators, the purpose of which is to establish the terms governing contracts to be awarded during a given period, in particular with regard to price and, where appropriate the quantity envisaged”.

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Life-cycle Costing

Life-cycle costing is a concept that has come to prominence in public procurement over the past few years but there seems to be a lack of understanding over exactly what it means and what areas it covers.

Regulation 68 of The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 specifically outlines that life cycle costing can now be used by buyers when cost is the award criterion.

Life-cycle costing is similar to MEAT (Most economically advantageous tender) in that it takes into account a combination of price and quality. The difference is that all aspects of the production process can be considered in the evaluation of the bid.

Research and development, production costs, maintenance costs and end of life disposal costs are all considered to be part of life-cycle cost. Environmental factors like costs of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change mitigation can also be included in the assessment if a monetary value can be assigned to them.

To break this down further, buyers may want to consider the following elements in greater detail before making the decision to purchase:

  • Various transaction costs, such as taxes, foreign exchange and contracting costs.
  • Finance costs (if capital has to be borrowed to pay for the purchase).
  • Acquisition costs: costs of delivery, installation and commissioning.
  • Operating costs, such as energy, spares, consumables, maintenance and repair over the useful life of the purchase (e.g. for equipment and machinery), operating training, supplier support.
  • Costs of storage and other handling, assembly or finishing required.
  • Costs of quality (inspection, re-work or rejection, lost sales, compensation of customers etc).
  • End of life costs, such as decommissioning, removal and disposal (minus some negative cost if the asset has sufficient residual value for re-sale).

Some or all of these costs may be included in the price quoted by a supplier but they may not be. Buyers should assess this fully – does a lower price reflect competitive pricing or a lesser total package of benefits?

When procuring in the construction industry for example, it is recommended by The Office of Government Commerce that higher costs at the design and construction stages should be considered in the interests of achieving significant savings over a building’s lifetime. For construction projects in particular, life-cycle costs are those associated directly with the building; costs such as land, income from the building and support costs associated with the activity in the building.

Of course, suppliers will need to consider the lifecycle cost factor as a priority too. This is to ensure that best value can be gained from cost of production whilst staying competitive in the marketplace.

Regulation 68 also sets the parameters to ensure that it is fair and to make sure that it doesn’t disadvantage certain suppliers. If an authority is to use life cycle costing, the criteria that they are using must be included in the procurement documents and they must also outline what data they are expecting the supplier to provide. It also states that if a common method for calculation has been made mandatory by EU legislation that it should be used for the assessment. (The only example so far is the Clean and Efficient Vehicles Directive (2009/33/EU).

It may be common once the procurement process is in progress for lifecycle costing to slip down the list of priorities. Calculations therefore need to be incorporated at the start of the process, and not be seen as a last minute fix.

If you have any questions ask our experts by leaving a comment below

Where is the love?

This weekend, millions will take part in the annual celebration of love and commitment that is Valentine’s Day. Vows and promises will be made; hopes and dreams will be shared. There will be fine dining, expensive presents and special moments. Meanwhile, some of us will cower alone in our bedsits, recoiling from the grotesque displays of happiness on our news feeds. Displays of love, however, are not the sole preserve of romantically involved couples. It is often said that love is based on respect; showing respect can be something as simple as making time for a friend, complimenting a colleague on a job well done, or being kind to a stranger. Maintaining high standards of behaviour in our professional and social lives – showing a little love, if you will – is the cornerstone of a civilised society.

This is not merely an issue of social cohesion: there is a solid business case for companies to actively promote a culture of respect in their internal and external relationships. In recent years, the concept of corporate social responsibility has become increasingly prominent in many organisations, with substantial emphasis placed on health and safety, security, sustainability and equality in the formulation and implementation of procedures and processes. Awards and accreditations in these fields – along with the provision of various employee-focused schemes – have become the norm in the business world. Accordingly, developing your organisation in these areas is not merely about prestige: it is about maintaining a competitive edge. Public sector organisations have led the way in this respect; at Tenders Direct we see frequent procurements for services such as quality assurance and accreditation, employee assistance and counsellingemployee engagement and corporate values, benefit schemes and teambuilding events. More than ever, public and private sector organisations are recognising the material and cultural advantages of an enlightened approach to organisational management and development.

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Below Threshold procurement advertising

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 our myTenders service) 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 Proactis to publish a blog on a certain topic, whether it be relating to the 2015 Regulation or not, please do not hesitate to comment.

Proactis 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 Tenders Direct.

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