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2 April 2014 | Will Green
New EU regulations governing public sector procurement are predicted to come into force in the UK in a year’s time.
Martin Vincent, partner at law firm Weightmans, told a conference he believed it would take a year for the new rules to be incorporated into UK law. Under EU law member countries have two years to transpose the directives, approved by the European Parliament in January, into domestic law.
“When that will happen in that two-year window we don’t know,” he said. “There is quite a lot of detail to go through. I think it will take about a year for that. My best guess is it will be this time next year when we will see those new regulations.”
Meanwhile, Sally Collier chief executive of the Crown Commercial Service, has said they plan to implement the changes by the end of the year.
Vincent told the London Universities Purchasing Consortium 2014 Conference he considered the changes to be evolution rather than revolution. “It codifies existing case law,” he said.
However, he said the new rules around conflict of interest would highlight academics’ relationships with suppliers of research equipment when assessing competitive bids.
“Undertake due diligence on the marking and assessment panel and establish whether they have any connections with bidders,” he advised.
Vincent also said there was a presumption in favour of breaking up contracts into lots. “If you don’t divide contracts into lots you will have to say why,” he said.
He also said documentation would be required to clarify how buyers call off from frameworks. “There’s going to have to be some documents around when direct award will be used and when a mini competition will be used,” he said.
Afterwards Vincent said fewer and fewer universities fell under EU procurement rules because the way they are funded, increasingly through student loans, means they are no longer defined as contracting authorities.
“It frees them up on the minutiae of the regulations,” he said. “It will mean they are judged on the individual process. They won’t be able to say ‘in accordance with these regulations we have done this right’. They will have to think a lot more about the individual circumstances of their procurement and at every stage, are they acting reasonably?”
To avoid such legal challenges from suppliers Vincent said many organisations continued to use the EU process.