13 February 2014 | Paul Snell
“We need to clarify public procurement rules to make life easier for both public authorities and companies bidding for contracts,” said European commissioner Michel Barnier on launching a consultation into reform of EU procurement rules in January 2011.
The cover feature in this issue should explain the reform to the regulations that has been debated, negotiated and finally approved during the intervening three-year period.
Whether Barnier has achieved his stated aim is another matter. Some areas have been cleared up
– the abolition of ‘part B’ services and the process of contract modification, for example. But whether the changes make life easier remains to be seen.
He was, though, “very satisfied” by the result. As was Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who said it produced “several wins for the UK government”. Others went further, suggesting the success of the reform is an indication of the UK’s influence in Europe. “We are stronger shaping policy from within,” tweeted the Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder.
I’m sure Eurosceptic buyers would be quick to point out that, if the UK wasn’t part of the EU, they would not be bound by the regulations, negating the need for a lengthy reform process in the first place.
Ultimately, whether these reforms do go on to prove successful will be down to how they are implemented, and whether buyers take advantage.
In this month’s First Person column, Malcolm Harbour, one of the architects of the new rules, says purchasers need to “sharpen up their act” as “we can’t just continue to blame Brussels bureaucrats for a sluggish, outdated and costly system”.
The UK government wants the new regulations in place within 12 months, so we shall soon see whether Barnier’s aim was more than wishful thinking.
☛ It’s that time of year again: the CIPS Supply Management Awards are now open for entries.
You can find full details and tips on how to enter – including two new categories for 2014 – here. The deadline for nominations is 11 April 2014.