Ask the Expert

Post Brexit Procurement Regime

Question by: Darshak Shah

Andy – can you opine on:

(1) what the impact of Brexit will be for public sector procurement from now until the exit point?

(2)what sort of public contract procurement regime may follow?

thanks

darshak


We all know that the EU tendering processes, as adopted into UK legislation, impose processes and burdens upon public sector organisations and those commercial suppliers looking to win contracts with them, alike.  However, the fundamental principles underpinning the tendering processes seek to provide an unbiased, open and fair environment within which any supplier can have an equal chance of competing to win.  They also seek to eradicate any possibility of corruption influencing the outcome, whilst regularly evolving the processes and options within the system to reduce the costs on and get a better result for all parties.

My belief is that this procurement approach will not be abandoned either during the preparations for Brexit or after.

I , also, think it unlikely that the public sector will abandon the majority of the specific systems and approaches to procurement that it currently operates.  It may engage in some tuning.  However, the current processes, albeit somewhat cumbersome have, in the main, been proven to work.  We have a very sizable investment in these processes, both within and without the public sector which will not be abandoned lightly.

I would argue that no right minded person would want to go back to the possibly biased and corrupt practices of the past.  Moreover, I suggest that if we ignore those cases where the underlying specification may be wrong or unwise, the current systems do get good value for money for the taxpayer.

Indeed, you can make a strong case that they always achieve best value in terms of what is asked for at the time it is being asked.  We often hear about procurement disasters.  However, the core procurement system design or process is rarely the culprit.  It is the people who cannot decide what they want, try to buy the wrong things or who change their minds after the procurement activity starts.

Therefore, I think in the short term there will be considerable pressure to maintain the underlying principles of public sector procurement and the simplest way of achieving that is to continue with what is already working.  Once we leave, I would expect to see enabling legislation to keep the current procurement act in force, passed very early after the leave process is begun. Then, in time, the UK and EU procurement systems may slowly diverge.  However, I would expect the essence of the rules to stay completely in line with the EU public sector procurement legislation development.  We want a fair system and, in any case, any subsequent trade agreement with the EU will probably require the adoption of EU public sector procurement systems as a part of that agreement.

Hope that this helps.

Andy Haigh