Last February, the new UK Public Contracts Regulations came into effect, revolutionising aspects of our established procurement processes.
Some changes were greeted with excitement; like the chance to test new procedures, increased opportunity for engagement with SMEs, and a new industry-wide set of operational standards. Other revisions, like the reduction to prescribed project timescales, and the earlier disclosure of documentation, challenged the sector to speed up its processes.
With a vote on EU membership forecast in 2017, it’s an ideal time to consider the effect of EU directives on group buying over the past year, and how a move away from such EU regulation might alter the current procurement landscape.
EU attention to detail
There’s little doubt that many of the changes put in place last February have delivered benefits for suppliers and buyers. The EU treaty principles of transparency and equal treatment have helped make competition fairer within frameworks, often leading to lower costs and better value derived by customers.
The industry has faced more scrutiny, rigorous testing and bureaucracy than ever before in order to realise OJEU compliance. But those same guidelines have helped integrate a more structured approach to procurement, and have encouraged us to innovate in meeting new challenges.
This extra attention to detail has helped forge stronger partnerships between framework operators, suppliers and members, leading to closer collaboration and a chance to align our long-term strategies.
Whatever complaints the sector may have about the increase in administration from OJEU regulations, the majority of the principles adopted last year have forged a solid foundation of good practice.
It’s safe to assume that scrutiny on spending in the housing and public sector is here to stay, so a move towards increased clarity, responsibility and accountability can only be viewed as a good thing.
But what difference would a Brexit make to the current procurement landscape? Although some have suggested that a Brexit could drive down import costs for the UK, it’s likely trade with EU members would become more complex, bureaucratic and ultimately time-consuming.
How would the UK cope without the free movement of skilled workers that all EU members have come to rely on? Does the UK have the strength in depth, especially within trades like construction, to truly stand independent?
Whether the UK votes in or out of the EU, the experience gained in this year’s new procurement environment will inevitably lead to a savvier, more commercially-minded customer, who can leverage higher standards and better prices from their supply chains - isn’t that exactly what effective procurement should hope to achieve?
This blog was originally published on Inside Housing's website on Monday 7 December.