Public Sector Procurement - Have the Rules for Public Sector Buyers Changed?

CIPS 22 April 2020

There have been few major changes to the guidelines covering public sector buyers worldwide, however, most governments and authorities are relaxing rules to support the movement of goods and healthy cash flow.

In the UK, the Cabinet Office issued a series of policy notices for contracting authorities: these included ensuring immediate payment of invoices, and to consider forward ordering, advance payments, interim payments and payment on order. The government also recommended public buyers extend their use of procurement cards to simplify purchasing processes and relieve pressure on finance departments. It suggested authorities increase single and monthly transaction limits to “ensure appropriate limits” as well as the number of workers and categories authorised to use the cards.

Certain contractual requirements have been amended for cases of demonstrable “extreme urgency” where buyers can enter into contracts without competing or advertising or directly award a contract in the absence of competition. It also allows authorities to call off an existing framework agreement, use standard procedures with accelerated timescales, or extend or modify a contract during its term.

The European Commission announced contractual “flexibilities”, allowing direct awarding of contracts in certain circumstances and expediting procurement processes in the case of medical and protective equipment.

In the US, a presidential memorandum authorised executive agencies to initiate emergency procurement rules including raising the threshold of micro-purchases and adopting more “simplified procedures” for key commercially sourced items.

Australia is also easing processes, including Queensland’s guidance to allow “verbal approval” for procurement of category 1 (immediate response) medical supplies, and encouraging more use of digital signatures and approval sign off.     

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