Public sector buyers may enter into contracts “without competing or advertising” when responding to the coronavirus outbreak, the UK government has advised.
In a Procurement Policy Note (PPN), the Cabinet Office noted that authorities may need to “procure goods, services and works with extreme urgency”.
“In responding to Covid-19, contracting authorities may enter into contracts without competing or advertising the requirement,” the PPN said.
Authorities must be able to demonstrate there are genuine reasons for extreme urgency, for example, public health risks or loss of existing provision at short notice.
“You should limit your requirements to only what is absolutely necessary both in terms of what you are procuring and the length of contract. Delaying or failing to do something in time does not make a situation qualify as extremely urgent, unforeseeable or not attributable to the contracting authority,” it said.
Contracting authorities with an urgent need for goods, works or services may also directly award a contract due to absence of competition, call off from an existing framework agreement, use standard procedures with accelerated timescales, or extend or modify a contract during its term.
“You should ensure you keep proper records of decisions and actions on individual contracts, as this could mitigate against the risk of a successful legal challenge. If you make a direct award, you should publish a contract award notice within 30 days of awarding the contract,” it said.
The guidance applies to all contracting authorities, including central government departments, executive agencies, public bodies, local authorities, NHS bodies and the wider public sector with immediate effect.
The PPN added: “The Covid-19 outbreak is likely to give rise to supply chain disruption and contracting authorities may need to take action in response to supplier claims of 'force majeure' or contract 'frustration'. These and other issues will be covered in future PPNs.”
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