PWC advises on UK public Procurement Bill reform

Writing in a recent blog post, experts from PWC are advising how businesses should be acting ahead of public procurement changes in England, Wales and NI

The reforms in the Procurement Bill are currently going through the final stages of the parliamentary process, and will be the biggest changes in the way the public sector in England, Wales and Northern Ireland operate in decades.

The changes are scheduled to come into force in October 2024 and will be changes to processes, systems, regulations and data.

Writing in the blog, Alex Caplan at PwC explains how the devil lies in the details and knowing which areas will need the biggest changes to operating procedures and the exact nature of the alterations needed.

“Whilst the exact changes are yet to be confirmed, the direction of travel is now clear. Through assessing the reforms closely, it is possible to identify which will have the biggest impact on contracting authorities,” writes Caplan.

Alex Caplan Manager at PwC (Credit: LinkedIn)

Which reforms in the Procurement Bill will have the greatest impact?

The exact changes the bill will have are still to be finalised, but procurement teams who engage in public contracts do now have a strong impression of the directions of travel and the actions they need to be considering.

The four most impactful reforms listed in the PWC blog are:

  • More flexibility in procurement procedures, framework rules and new dynamic markets
  • Increased transparency requirements
  • Minimum contract management obligations driven by KPI monitoring requirements
  • Enhanced debarment and exclusions regime

With time running down before the reforms are implemented, businesses are needing to consider their preparations now to make sure they can maximise the opportunities presented by the changes.  

As Alex Caplan from PWC argues, ‘change is coming’ and breaks down the course of action for vendors into three key points.

Three point action plan for preparing for the UK Procurement Bill 

The three steps are advised as a way for public sector procurement functions to take action now to give them greatest leverage on the coming changes.

They break down into agreeing as a leadership group the scale of ambition, assessing current readiness for delivering change, and then preparing for implementation. 

Scale of ambition in public procurement reform

Initially the priority is making sure processes and governance are in alignment to ensure you are compliant with the new regulations.  This can then be extended to finding advantages in the new flexibilities, and upskilling staff so they are aware of the new systems.

How ready are you to deliver change?

The blog lists four key points to know how ready you are for the new regulations.

“Forming this clear view is an essential step to enable you to make the required changes once they are confirmed,” writes Caplan.  “You can then combine this with your ambition statement to identify the changes required.”

  • Do you have your current processes documented?
  • Do you know your team’s current capacity and where core skills sit?
  • Do you know your current procurement system landscape and how core systems are used and interact with each other?
  • Do you have accurate and complete information on your current contracts and procurement pipeline?

Getting ready for implementation of the Procurement Bill

The final stage of the three point plan is actually making tangible changes to make sure the leadership group and wider team is ready to put changes into action.

Caplan emphasises the importance of making procurement reform a priority project with “an identified senior project sponsor, robust plan, governance structures, communications etc.”

Other steps include reviewing your procurement pipeline to find any impacted contracts, identifying which areas of changes have longer lead times to start actions in sufficient time and finally having a recruitment plan to fill and additional posts that will need filling.

What is the UK Procurement Bill?

The bill includes stepped-up measures to protect national security in government contracts. These measures are part of the proposed Procurement Bill, which aims to streamline processes, support small businesses, and enhance the nation's security.

Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General Jeremy Quin said:  “Protecting the nation’s security has always been the government’s number one job.  These new measures will protect our sensitive sectors from companies which could threaten national security and are a firm deterrence to hostile actors who wish to do Britain harm.  This builds on the robust rules within the Procurement Bill to hold suppliers to account and ensure that the taxpayer is protected.”

Cabinet Office Minister Alex Burghart said: “It’s absolutely right we continue to look at ways to strengthen central government rules when it comes to national security and I have no doubt these additional measures will ensure the Bill delivers on its objective to have a robust, modern procurement process which delivers for the British people.”

As part of the Procurement Bill, the government is proposing new powers to ban suppliers from sensitive sectors related to defence and national security. These suppliers will still be eligible to win contracts in non-sensitive areas. This approach ensures that potential threats are mitigated in critical sectors while allowing businesses to participate in other sectors where security risks are lower.

The Procurement Bill also aims to streamline processes and support small businesses. By cutting red tape and removing barriers, the bill seeks to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to secure a share of the £300 billion worth of UK government contracts awarded annually. The bill also introduces rules that allow the government to procure vital goods efficiently during emergencies, ensuring quick and transparent decision-making.

You can read the blog post in full detail from Alex Caplan here.  

Read in full more details about what the UK Procurement Bill is and how it could protect national security and support small businesses.  

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