January/February 2017 Procurement Roundup

We would like to make you aware of several new legal developments that have emerged during the first couple of months of 2017. If you would like to discuss any of these matters with Hempsons’ dedicated procurement team in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Our procurement team can also assist with designing bespoke procurement processes, updating internal policies and procedures to comply with the latest legislative changes, or support you should you receive a challenge from an aggrieved supplier.

1. Mystery Shopper Service’s new active approach to investigations

The Mystery Shopper Service sits within the Crown Commercial Service and allows suppliers to raise concerns anonymously about contracting authorities’ procurement practices. The Service then works with the supplier and the contracting authority to broker a result.

On 15 February 2017, the Service announced that it will now be actively following up on contracting authorities to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented in full. This represents a significant change in approach for the Service, which previously ended investigations when contracting authorities agreed to make changes.

The Service is now adopting a higher profile with a more robust strategy towards contracting authorities, and is now publishing full details of the follow-up investigations on its webpage every month alongside the usual Mystery Shopper publication.

Read the latest Mystery Shopper Service investigation results here.

2. Social Value Act to be reviewed

On 8 February 2017 the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP, announced that there will be a further review of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 (“the Social Value Act”). The Social Value Act requires contracting authorities to consider both the social and financial implications of their decisions when awarding public sector contracts.

The Social Value Act was previously reviewed by Lord Young in 2015, resulting in the recommendation that whilst the Act was having a positive impact when it was implemented, awareness and take up of the legislation was mixed. Concerns were also raised about how varying levels of understanding of applying the Act could lead to inconsistent practice, as well as the need to improve the ways in which social value can be accurately calculated.

All contracting authorities should be considering what implications the legislation could have on their organisations. The Government’s upcoming review, which implements Lord Young’s recommendation for a follow up evaluation two years after his initial report, should be monitored closely. Details of the scope of the review are currently unclear, although it has been reported that the Government will seek to work closely with social value organisations to help shape the next phase of implementing the legislation.

Read Lord Young’s 2015 Report on the Social Value Act here.

3. Procurement Policy Note 8/16: new guidance issued

On 8 February 2017 the Crown Commercial Service published a new ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ note to assist with enquiries about the revised standard Selection Questionnaire (SQ). The SQ replaced the standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) and PPN 8/16 superseded the guidance on supplier selection and PQQs in PPN 03/15.

PPN 8/16 applies to all contracting authorities in England, and contracting authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland that exercise wholly or mainly reserved functions for procurements above the thresholds laid down in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The new guidance will help ensure that contracting authorities are kept as up to date as possible.

Read Procurement Policy Note 8/16 here.

4. Procurement Policy Note 01/17: update to transparency principles

On 24 March 2015, the Government published a set of general transparency principles (in PPN 13/15) that required public procurers to proactively disclose contract details and related information that may previously have been withheld on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

These principles have now been simplified following feedback and have been replaced by Procurement Policy Note 01/17. The note, published on 16 February 2017, sets out a high level statement of the expectations placed on the Government and its suppliers in meeting its aims on transparency.

The PPN considers in detail what information should be disclosed, when information should be released proactively, when information should be released on the request of a member of the public, and what amounts to an unreasonable request for disclosure.

The update provides a welcome clarification on the transparency principles.

Read Procurement Policy Note 01/17 here.

5. Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill

On 5 December 2016 the Cabinet Office published the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill (“the Draft Bill”), which as currently drafted will abolish the existing Parliamentary, Health Service, and Local Government Ombudsmen and create a single Public Service Ombudsman (PSO).

The PSO is set to be equipped with a wide range of powers to investigate complaints and promote good complaints handling with the support of a new statutory body called the Board of the Public Service Ombudsman. The current requirement that all complaints are to be made through a Member of Parliament will also be abolished, allowing complaints of maladministration to be made directly to the PSO.

How the Bill will impact on healthcare services specifically is still to be ironed out.

Read the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill here.

We hope you found something of interest in our procurement law roundup. For more information on how any of the above issues may affect your organisation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.