Don't scrap but reform EU procurement directives

19 September 2016

UK buyers are overwhelmingly in favour of reforming rather than scrapping or keeping the EU procurement directives when Brexit is enacted, a survey has revealed.

Some 58% of respondents said they would prefer to see procurement directives reformed rather than abolished altogether when canvassed by the consultancy SPS.

More than a quarter of respondents wanted the directives to continue unchanged, while 15% said they would prefer to see them scrapped.

Study author Ken Cole, director of projects and practice at SPS, said the directives governed how about £100bn of public money was spent.

“For some they are a liberalising influence that enforce good practice while for others they are an expensive overhead that adds delay and cost,” said Cole.

The directives were introduced in the 1970s and have been heavily modified since then to ensure that EU member countries’ procurement policies were not protectionist.

A total of 134 buyers across Great Britain were surveyed. About 75% were from local government while the remainder were from central government, housing associations or NHS trusts.

London was slightly more in favour of maintaining the procurement directives than the rest of the country, with 38% saying they should be kept as they are.

The main reasons given to continue to apply the directives were that they enforce good practice, open our markets to competition, are working, are an essential aspect of single market trade and ensure the procurement profession is taken seriously.

The principal reasons for scrapping compliance were that the regulations add cost without delivering value and they delay the procurement process.

Some respondents also cited that leaving the EU means freeing ourselves from its laws and that the directives are unwieldy and impossible to reform.

The main areas of reform favoured by respondents included forcing companies that made spurious or failed contract award challenges to compensate the public bodies they had challenged.

Changing the thresholds covered by the directives, narrowing the criteria used for issuing a challenge, including social value as a formal evaluation criteria and shortening timescales were some of the other major reforms sought by respondents.

Cole said the survey indicated that reform of the directives could maintain free trade and healthy competition while giving contracting authorities greater flexibility in deciding the most appropriate and cost effective route to market.

Reform could also restore the balance between buyers and suppliers, while narrowing the scope and opportunities for complaints and legal challenges, and deregulate and simplify processes, procedures and rules.

“The reforms proposed by our respondents make sense in that they are driven by a desire to improve legislation that has its roots in good intentions but which is in danger of becoming outmoded,” added Cole.

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