On 30 June 2022, the Cabinet Office published a policy paper, "Transforming Public Procurement – our transparency ambition" ("Paper"). The Paper introduced a number of public procurement transparency reforms in furtherance of the new transparency agenda, as set out in the Transforming Public Procurement Green Paper and the recent Procurement Bill. Please see our Transforming Public Procurement Webinar from February 2021 for a detailed review of the proposed changes in the Green Paper.
The Paper explains how information will be made more accessible by the public sector through the use of centralised information systems, additional disclosure and reporting obligations.
The transparency reforms
The Paper sets out three central reforms that aim to increase transparency in public procurement:
- New procurement notices which cover the entirety of the procurement process from planning to contract expiry. As it stands, transparency obligations only bite at the tender and contract award stages of the procurement cycle. Under the new rules, information produced at every stage, such as information on potential future procurements at the planning stage, will be required to be published. Suppliers will be better positioned to engage with the procurement process, identify and plan for contracting opportunities. The media and the general public will also be more informed about how taxpayers' money is spent, with the intention to increase accountability in the system.
- A streamlined registration service to enable suppliers to input information about their businesses and answers to frequently asked questions across different procurements known as a 'Tell-us-once' system. A Register of Suppliers will be designed to create a centralised register into which suppliers can feed information using organisational identifiers. The intention is that this system will make the bidding process more efficient across all public organisations by reducing duplication of work for suppliers.
- A centralised digital platform that will display all information from the notices (and some information from the Register of Suppliers) and, over time, incorporate data analysis tools to analyse commercial procurement data. Contracting authorities, suppliers and interested parties will be able to see live opportunities and existing public sector contracts and performance data on current contracts (including spend comparisons).
The Paper confirms that introducing the new procurement notices outlined in the Procurement Bill is the highest priority, with the division of notices into five broad stages under the proposed reformed regime:
- Stage 1 – Planning Stage: Pipeline Notice, Planned Procurement Notice and Preliminary Market Engagement Notice.
- Stage 2 – Tender Stage: Tender Notice, Mandatory Transparency Notice, Dynamic Market Notice, Below-Threshold Tender Notice.
- Stage 3 – Award: Contract Award Notice.
- Stage 4 – Contract: Contract Details Notice, Below-Threshold Contract Notice.
- Stage 5 – Implementation: Payments Compliance Notice, Payments Compliance Notice, Contract Change Notice, Contract Termination Notice.
Transparency is at the heart of the procurement reforms, and the Procurement Bill itself is currently at the Committee Stage in the House of Lords. The Government has confirmed that at least six months' notice will be given before the new regime comes into force.
Further detail on the planned transparency changes and the Procurement Bill will be fleshed out in secondary legislation and associated guidance.
The Cabinet Office has commenced work on new draft templates for the new procurement transparency notices in Find a Tender, which will be tested by eProcurement suppliers during the development process. Work will also shortly commence on the data analysis elements of the central digital platform.