Legal risk for faster purchasing

20 January 2009

20 January 2009

Public sector buyers and lawyers fear that acting on European Commission advice to speed up public purchasing could leave authorities open to legal risks.

Last month the EC called for buyers to take advantage of an existing 'accelerated procedure' in the procurement directives which reduces tendering times from a minimum of 87 to 30 days.

It said faster tendering for major public projects could help boost the economy amid current "exceptional" conditions (Web news, 23 December 2008).

The procedure gives suppliers just 10 days to register interest in a contract, instead of the usual 37. In addition, the time to submit tenders can be cut from the standard 40 days to 10.

Ian Stewart, senior procurement manager at Cambridgeshire County Council, warned: "This proposal could result in many projects costing more or going wrong and the taxpayer will pick up the tab." Jeremy Swain, senior associate at law firm Denton Wilde and Sapte, said cutting corners may give rise to legal challenges.

However, David Gorton, head of procurement for the Network Housing Group, said quicker processes should produce savings.


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