New Welsh law sets duties on responsible procurement

Contracting authorities in Wales will be required to set and publish objectives to achieve “socially responsible procurement goals” under a new draft law.

Under the draft Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill, public authorities will have a duty to “improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of their areas”.

The objectives will apply to all “prescribed” contracts, currently defined as construction contracts above £2m and an expectation of contracts above £122,976 for goods and services.

“Contracting authorities will be required to publish procurement strategies and a register of current contracts,” said a consultation document. “They will also be required to produce annual reports which will cover their procurement activity over the previous year, allowing achievements to be publicised and good practice shared.”

More than £6.7bn of public money is spent each year through procurement and commissioning in Wales, with 52% going through Wales-based suppliers.

Provisions in the bill cover contract management, with a duty to improve due diligence in applying socially responsible contract terms in supply chains through what are called “social public works clauses”.

“The focus of this duty is on the construction sector where risks of poor compliance with social obligations, including those in relation to unfair and unlawful employment practices, can be hard to address throughout long and complex supply chains,” said the report.

The clauses cover areas including prompt payment, employment opportunities for particular groups, SMEs, sustainability, and training.

“If the contracting authority does not intend to include all of the social public works clauses or monitor their implementation through subcontracts, it will be required to send an exception notification to Welsh ministers as soon as is reasonably possible,” said the report.

The bill also includes the establishment of a Social Partnership Council (SPC), a national cross-sector forum chaired by the first minister, with representation from trade unions and employers.

“The primary purpose of the SPC will be to support Welsh ministers in their actions to improve public services and to increase wellbeing, especially social and economic wellbeing, including through strengthening and enhancing the consistency of the Welsh system of social partnership,” said the report.

In a written statement Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for housing and local government, said: “Our overarching goal through these measures is to enhance the wellbeing, lives and livelihoods of the people of Wales and to improve public services. This draft bill is an integral part of our broader aim to reduce inequality and to create a fairer and more inclusive Wales with a vibrant economy that values and safeguards our workforce.”

A consultation runs until 23 April 2021.

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