What are we to make of the results of the Local Government Association’s recent survey of buyers’ thoughts on the Remedies Directive
At first glance it is not too surprising. Buyers are not happy. Procurements take longer, cost more, are more complicated and purchasers are more confused - which is exactly what was predicted when the rules were introduced. To some extent the regulations were designed for this outcome. They are not there to make the work of buyers easier, but to stand up for suppliers who feel aggrieved.
The revelation that 17 per cent of respondents had faced a legal challenge is enlightening, but again unsurprising. We know challenges have increased
as a result of the rules and the impact of the recession. The LGA survey figure is probably higher than most would have predicted, especially as suppliers are still finding their way with the impact of the rules as much as buyers. It would be interesting to see how many of these challenges actually succeed, and whether suppliers are chancing their arm.
I found the most interesting nugget of the study to be that 76 per cent of buyers rarely or never receive expressions of interest from vendors outside the UK, and this figure rises to 89 per cent when it comes to submitting tenders, backing up anecdotal evidence I have heard.
It looks like one of the primary reasons for the regulations’ existence – increasing access to contracts among suppliers – is failing. This is bad news for blameless buyers. It’s not their fault if Belgian or Bulgarian vendors aren’t interested in their contracts. But the EU’s response will be to pile on more supplier-friendly amendments to vex purchasers further.
As one buyer laments in the survey: “I believe a fundamental change is needed in the EU regulations to deliver equal power to the buyer (as long as the tender process remains transparent).”
But all hope is not yet lost. The EU has promised to review the rules this year, and this week it announced it will publish a green paper and consultation into changes in procurement policy on 26 January. By registering their dissatisfaction, buyers have a chance to change the rules in their favour.