The recent Royal Assent of the Procurement Act marks a significant milestone in the evolution of public procurement.

The Act, which is due to be implemented in October 2024, ushers in a new era of procurement, one that promises to be simpler and more transparent, thereby offering better value for money. This is particularly advantageous for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which often face challenges with public contracts.

With approximately £300 billion of public expenditure per year up for grabs, the new regime is set to level the playing field, allowing SMEs to secure a greater share of this market.

National security and supplier scrutiny

A key aspect of the Act is the protection against national security risks. The introduction of a public debarment list for high-risk suppliers ensures that sensitive areas such as defence are safeguarded.

This measure also allows SMEs to bid for non-sensitive contracts without the shadow of security concerns, creating a more stable business environment.

Reducing barriers and upfront costs

The requirement for contracting authorities to consider the barriers facing SMEs is a game-changer. By allowing evidence of required insurance cover at the point of contract award rather than during bidding, SMEs can avoid unnecessary upfront costs.

This change demonstrates an understanding of the financial pressures on smaller businesses and a commitment to reducing them.

Driving value and innovation

The reforms are set to slash red tape and drive innovation, making it easier for suppliers of all sizes to engage with the public sector. The flexibility in negotiating prices and the focus on value rather than cost alone will encourage a more diverse and innovative supplier base, from which SMEs stand to benefit significantly.

Ensuring ethical and professional conduct

The ability to exclude suppliers based on past performance, modern slavery, or professional misconduct grounds introduces a layer of ethical consideration into procurement. This move aligns with the growing consumer and business emphasis on corporate responsibility, an area where many SMEs excel due to their closer community ties and often more transparent operations.

National Security Unit for Procurement

The establishment of a new National Security Unit for Procurement will bolster the security of supply chains. For SMEs, this means a more secure marketplace and the assurance that national security is being proactively considered in procurement decisions.

Preparing for the future

The changes are set to be implemented in October 2024, following a six-month period post-secondary legislation. To aid this transition, the Cabinet Office will provide a comprehensive learning and development package for public sector contracting authorities.

We are on hand to help SMEs understand these changes and prepare to take full advantage of the new procurement landscape. If you would like more assistance on this matter, please contact us today.

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