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26 October 2011 | Adam Leach
The Scottish government wants reform of European Union (EU)
procurement rules so it can use public procurement more strategically.
Giving the opening address at yesterday’s
Procurex conference in Glasgow, Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for
infrastructure and capital investment, said the government has written to the
EU highlighting the need for member states to be able to factor in wider
economic impacts when awarding contracts. “The balance needs to be readjusted a
bit more in favour of indigenous businesses,” he said.
The government has lobbied the EU to increase
the threshold at which contracts are subjected to competition rules. Speaking
to SM, director, commercial and procurement in the Scottish government
Alastair Merrill said regulation
around contracts should be more proportionate to the financial rewards: “At the
moment, even if it is a £150,000 contract, it’s got to go through OJEU, so you
can’t take into account local economic considerations. I don’t think that’s
“If we can get an increase in the threshold
and some ability to factor in economic and social considerations, then we can
use procurement in a much more intelligent fashion. It’s not to be
protectionist, but to regenerate communities, develop skilled workforces and
help businesses that may need a leg up to get to that critical mass and become
Asked how procurement’s profile has risen as
a result of the need to deliver savings, Merrill said: “It’s a sea change in
how policy is designed and how services are delivered. One of the first things
they [policy makers] think about in policy design and delivery is, ‘how do we
go to market?’, and, ‘how do we ensure we procure in the most intelligent way
possible?’. That’s a fantastic opportunity for the procurement profession.”
However, he added it was also a huge
challenge and buyers needed to “step up to the mark”.
The move comes amid a range of domestic
initiatives to give smaller businesses access to public contracts in Scotland. The
government launched Supplier Journey, a website that provides a step-by-step
guide to companies seeking to bid for public contracts. It also announced that
it will be rolling out a revised pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) to make
bidding easier. Through the online system, bidding parties will be able to
create a standardised PQQ that can be tailored to fit specific tenders.
Hopes of seeing the reforms enacted by the EU will have been
further strengthened by the news that MEPs yesterday voted in favour of the
principles of a report on modernising EU procurement.
The report advocated clear and flexible rules and making procurement procedures simpler, cheaper, more open to
SMEs and more conducive to investment.