Millstream cautiously welcomes new UK procurement regulations

Electronic tendering services provider Millstream has welcomed the new procurement regulations which come into force tomorrow, but warned that only time will tell how effective they are for SMEs.

The new Public Contracts Regulations 2015 come into effect in the UK - with the exception of Scotland - tomorrow (Thursday, February 26), introducing a number of measures, recommended by Lord Young of Graffham, which aim to help small firms win more government contracts.

Tim Williams, managing director of Millstream, which runs the myTenders Pro service as well as Sell2Wales and Public Contracts Scotland on behalf of the Welsh and Scottish governments, believes that overall the changes are positive.

“The new regulations have been a long time coming and I believe they will result in a number of changes that are beneficial,” he said. “One of the main aims is to encourage more participation from SMEs in tendering exercises and ultimately to get more SMEs supplying to the public sector.

“The key changes include less restrictive financial criteria - contracting authorities are now only allowed to ask for suppliers to have a turnover that is twice the value of the contract they are applying for, which is a good thing.

“The tender documents will now be published at the same time as the tender notice, which means companies can decide if a contract is suitable without first having to undertake work to get through the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) stage.

“It is also compulsory for government tenders worth more than £10,000 and other public sector contracts valued at more than £25,000 to be publicised, making them more visible to potential suppliers in the private sector.”

Buyers are strongly being encouraged to break large contracts down into smaller lots, which will bring much more work within the capabilities of small firms.

However, the timescales for procurement have been reduced – on average by a third – while the regulations introduce a new accelerated open procedure for OJEU tenders and the removal of a PQQ stage for low value contracts.

“The removal of the PQQ is also not so positive,” said Tim. “While well intentioned, this will inevitably have an impact on the ability of small firms to win public sector contracts.

“This means that instead of completing a relatively short questionnaire to demonstrate their qualifications, a candidate for a public contract will have to provide exactly the same information as part of their tender, but will also have to complete a full tender proposal, which takes up a significant amount of time and resources.”

“There are a number of conflicting changes but only time will tell what impact the changes will have. The Crown Commercial Service has advised that more guidance will be forthcoming on implementing the Lord Young Report but for now we will have to wait and see how businesses, and particularly SMEs, will benefit from the changes in the new regulations.”

As well as the national public procurement portals, Millstream runs the Tenders Direct and myTenders services.

Tenders Direct provides private companies with bespoke alerts on new business opportunities from the public sector, such as the government, local authorities, emergency services, NHS trusts and the armed forces.

The new requirement to publish nearly all public contracts online, will significantly increase the number of contracts available to subscribers.

Even more importantly the size and qualification requirements for these additional contracts will be ideal for small and medium sized companies.

myTenders is a tender publication and management service used by hundreds of public organisations in the UK to submit fully compliant contract notices to the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and Contracts Finder.