The year 2023 is set to be significant for procurement reform in the United Kingdom generally, and especially so in Wales. At present, there are two separate pieces of primary legislation making their way through two separate legislative processes. These are:
- the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill (the “SPPP Bill”), A Welsh Government Bill which was introduced into the Senedd on 7 June 2022, and is currently undergoing Stage 2 of its scrutiny in the Senedd (that is, detailed consideration by a committee of the Bill and any amendments tabled to that Bill)
- the Procurement Bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords on 11 May 2022 and is currently in its second reading in the House of Commons.
Both Bills are due to be enacted in 2023. On 18 August 2021 the Welsh Government made a written announcement that provision for the Welsh Contracting Authorities is to be made within the Procurement Bill. Consequently, both the SPPP Bill and the Procurement Bill will effect entities seeking to bid for public contracts in Wales. An initial question for many will be what is the difference between the two Bills, and what do they seek to achieve?
Background to the programme
The UK government states that its Transforming Public Procurement programme aims to improve the way public procurement is regulated in order to:
- create a simpler and more flexible, commercial system that better meets our country’s needs while remaining compliant with our international obligations;
- open up public procurement to new entrants such as small businesses and social enterprises so that they can compete for and win more public contracts; and
- embed transparency throughout the commercial lifecycle so that the spending of taxpayers’ money can be properly scrutinised.
The purpose of the Procurement Bill is to reform the existing public procurement regulations and to create a simpler and more transparent regime which is no longer based on transposed EU Directives. In simple terms, this Bill will reform the “nuts and bolts” of how procurement is managed and regulated in the United Kingdom. We will be discussing the detail of this Bill, and what it means for Wales, in a webinar this spring.
The SPPP Bill is “a framework to enhance the well-being of the people of Wales by improving public services through social partnership working, promoting fair work and social responsible public procurement”. The establishment of a Social Partnership Council (“SPC”), and a statutory duty on certain public bodies to consider socially responsible public procurement when carrying out procurement. We will be covering the SPPP Bill in further detail in our upcoming webinar series too.
These two Bills, taken together, will completely change the landscape of public procurement in Wales. Contracting authorities and tenderers alike will need to get to grips with a whole new body of law, utilising differing terminology, imposing different obligations and granting different rights. The new body of law will be supplemented by statutory guidance and the challenge facing those procuring in and selling into the public sector cannot be over stated. The new law and guidance will need to be reflected in their procurement practices and a thorough understanding of the changes will be required to enable them to do so.