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Changes to EU procurement rules could help SMEs

16 March 2012

Proposals to revise the highly unpopular EU procurement rules which govern the awarding of public sector contacts could make it simpler for SMEs to win work and quicker for clients to procure.

Mark Robinson, chief executive officer of Scape Building, which procures work on behalf of a consortia of midlands-based local authorities, said that proposals currently out for consultation could potentially reduce the costs that councils often have to spend on re-tendering for repeated contracts.

”The draft directive gives more clarity and more flexibility and clarifies some of the more complex areas that have previously caused confusion and litigation,” said Robinson.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises will be free to bid for public sector work without having to submit complex paperwork proving their suitability each time. Procurement of social, health and education service schemes or projects valued at less than €500,000 won’t be subject to EU rules at all. And contracting authorities can be more flexible in adapting a contract without having to go through a new award process if external and unforeseen circumstances arise.”

Further benefits include the mandatory use of electronic resources to accelerate application procedures. Contracting bodies will also be able to assess life-cycle costs when assessing the financial aspects of bids rather than the traditional price-only criterion. Contracting authorities will have the option to use the negotiated procedure when they want to, and a new tender procedure to procure innovative partnerships has also been incorporated.

“All that has got to be good news for the many cash-strapped organisations across the UK. The only downside is the new rules are unlikely to come into force until 2014, and we could do with this red tape being cut now,” said Robinson.

Alan Muse, director of QS and construction and project management at the RICS, also welcomed the consultation and said the EU approach would dovetail with the government’s drive to simplify procurement processes.

Meanwhile, Design Council Cabe is calling for the current tick-box procurement system to be replaced with a code of practice that gives smaller firms a chance. Its proposals have been submitted to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, which is holding an inquiry into construction procurement.

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