Out-Law News 1 min. read

Cabinet Office consults on how to use powers to change public procurement rules to aid SMEs

New UK regulations could be introduced to streamline public procurement procedures in an effort to help SMEs win more contracts from government departments, local authorities and other public sector bodies.

The Cabinet Office has launched a consultation (9-page / 291KB PDF) to gather views on how best to use new powers it is set to be given under proposed new legislation. Under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Bill, the Cabinet Office would be handed the power to set new rules for public bodies on procurement issues.

The Cabinet Office has said it could use this power to impose new requirements on public sector bodies to "exercise procurement functions in an efficient and timely manner". The imposition of a further duty to "make available, free of charge, information or documents, or processes necessary for any potential supplier to bid for a contract opportunity" is also being considered.

It said that it will require public bodies to accept electronic invoices (e-invoices) under the reforms.

Among the plans being considered for public procurement streamlining is a plan to set a time limit of 120 working days for public bodies to complete "all but the most complex procurements". Central government departments are already subject to a set of principles where this time limit applies.

A time limit for responding to invitations to tender could also be imposed for low value public contracts that fall below the thresholds set out in new EU Public Procurement rules, according to the Cabinet Office's consultation paper.

Stakeholders have been asked to "identify specific areas of the procurement life cycle", such as "pre-market engagement, commercial strategy, sourcing, tender evaluation, [and] contract management", where improvements could be made by public sector bodies. Further views are sought on whether greater disclosure of public bodies' commercial contracts with suppliers would "help deliver efficient and timely procurement processes across the public sector".

New EU rules on e–invoicing in public procurement wee finalised earlier this year. The Cabinet Office said will mandate e-invoicing for public sector contracts but has called for views on what "key points" must be addressed if "an efficient electronic invoicing system" for public sector organisations and suppliers is to be delivered.

It also asked stakeholders to outline what they think the main barriers to the acceptance of e-invoices by public bodies are and what holds back SMEs from issuing e-invoices in the first place.

"The government wishes to increase take-up of e-invoicing by legislating to ensure that all public authorities are capable of accepting electronic invoices in public procurement, so that there is a more efficient environment for suppliers and improved payment performance," the consultation said.

The consultation closes on 13 November.

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