The Government issued an amended Procurement Policy Note, PPN0120 on 18 March 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, outlining the ability to direct award through pre-procured agreements, such as Dynamic Purchasing Systems for urgent contracts, instead of carrying out further competition. Public sector buyers have utilised the relaxation of the need to carry out further competition, and extended incumbent contracts or directly awarded new contracts. PPN0120 was time-limited and it lapsed on 31 October 2020.
So what happens now? Read on to see how Procurement Assist has the answer.
“PPN0120 was a double-edged sword,” says Procurement Assist CEO Keith Armstrong. “It helped to address the closedown of the supply chain and the lack of ability to have a resource to respond to a further competition process (due to staff being furloughed), but at the same time, it created a ‘bubble’ of contract extensions that fall well outside of the rigours of the procurement procedures we must follow in the public sector. Whilst there is an element of ‘dammed if you do, damned if you don’t’ about PPN0120, contract extensions and direct awards were made right across the industry.”
“There was a drive to remain in a contract rather than assessing cost and quality, not because the industry wanted to, but because there wasn’t an indication of how long the country would be in lockdown.” Keith goes on to explain: “PPN0120 was a temporary measure, and to a certain degree, has been used for more than just ‘urgent’ contracts. I have seen plenty of evidence to show that it became the new ‘norm’ and I do worry about the value for money this has ultimately achieved. With markets shifting as we move into the new ways of working and industry switches itself back on, it would be interesting to see if prices for goods, works and services reduce – resulting in PPN0120 directly awarded contracts or extended contracts being costly in comparison.”
“There is another element to the pandemic, and that is planned re-procurement has been put on hold. This has resulted in an industry with procurement that has backed up to a point where internal resource simply can’t cope with the volume of work required to ensure contracts are re-procured compliantly, now that PPN0120 has lapsed. As many contracts cycle with the typical financial year, here at Procurement Assist we see a surge in demand for Clients procuring contracts around this time of year, ready to mobilise prior to 1 April. I expect this demand to be even greater this time around due to the backlog of work.”
Keith talks about how in recent weeks things have changed: “We have seen this very trend already – with Clients approaching us to support their existing resource by working alongside their existing team and procuring contracts through our Dynamic Purchasing Systems. In some cases, we have been commissioned to support quick, low hanging fruit’ contracts to clear the backlog down. In other cases, we have been commissioned to deliver, full end to end procurement for more complex projects.”
“Here at Procurement Assist, the team is geared up to support the public sector clear the backlog of procurement projects that must be delivered before April 2021. As PPN0120 has lapsed, contracts must now be procured under existing regulations to ensure compliance – or through pre-procured agreements such as our DPS’ – for us its business as usual.”
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