On 5 February 2015, the government published the final form of the new Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The new regulations transpose the new EU public sector procurement directive (Directive 2014/24) into national legislation and will come into force on Thursday, 26 February 2015.
The confirmed regulations follow just less than a week after the government published its Response to the Consultation on UK Transposition of new EU Procurement Directives. The consultation on its proposals for draft regulations had been launched back in September 2014 after the new Directive came into effect in April 2014.
EU Member States were given two years to implement the new Directive. But the UK's commitment to the copy-out approach (where the text of the Directive is literally copied into national rules) means that the UK will achieve transposition in England and Wales in just under a year, enabling both buyers and bidders to take early advantage of the increased flexibility in the new rules.
The response to the consultation explains that, on the whole, there was support for the approach to the draft regulations. So, although there are a number of drafting tweaks, there are otherwise no major changes to the draft regulations issued last year.
However, the government has committed to producing a raft of additional guidance on various issues, including the new 'light touch regime' for health and social services contracts, termination, grounds for exclusion, division of contracts into lots, sheltered workshops and e-procurement. In its response to the consultation, the government stated that where further clarification was needed, it preferred to issue guidance, which is inherently more flexible, than to re-write the draft regulations.
For the most part, the new regulations will replace the existing Public Contracts Regulations 2006 from Thursday, 26 February. But contracts for NHS healthcare services will remain on the old regime until April 2016, and the requirements in relation to obligatory e-procurement are also postponed.
The government will next turn its attention to transposing the new utilities directive (Directive 2013/23) and the new directive on concessions (Directive 2013/25) before the deadline of 17 April 2016.
With an implementation date that is only a couple of weeks away, public sector buyers will now need to focus on getting up to speed on the new rules and understanding how the changes will impact on them. Private sector bidders will also need to ensure that they're aware of the key changes so that they understand the new rules of the game.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.