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Public Procurement in Scotland Conference Airs New EU Directives

Added: (Tue Sep 18 2001)

Pressbox (Press Release) - Public Procurement in Scotland Conference
Airs New EU Directives

More than 180 delegates from Scotland’s public sector recently (10 September) attended the first conference to present and debate the proposed changes to European Directives that govern public sector procurement in the UK.

The context for these changes is a situation where less than 15% of the UK’s 170 billion public procurement market (17 billion in Scotland) is publicised, breaking the law and denying private sector companies knowledge of billions of pounds of business.

“Whilst there are thresholds below which tenders do not need to be publicised, the European Commission estimates that the number of published tenders should be three times its current level,” explained Tim Williams, MD of Tenders Direct, the leading tenders listing service which organised the conference. “That amounts to more than 50 billion of business annually in the UK that private companies are not aware of.”

The failure by many organisations to follow current guidelines on tendering, together with the consequences, was a feature of the conference presentations.

“This is potentially dangerous for the organisations concerned and only last year the House of Commons had a 10m damages award against it because it had been found to not have followed the tendering process set down by the EU and enshrined in UK law,” said Williams.

Many public bodies are making the mistake of not publicising tenders below the thresholds of 93k for central government and 140k for local authorities because they fail to recognise that these are annual limits and not individual contract limits.

“For instance, if an NHS Trust purchased IT hardware worth 10,000 each month then every individual contract needs to be publicised,” explained Williams. “The majority of public sector bodies are breaking the law in this way and this will be brought home to them at the Conference.”

The new EU directives are designed to simplify and update the current procurement directives to improve compliance by the public sector. “These directives are expected to be adopted by the end of next year, with member states implementing them over the following year,” said Williams. “The Conference provided many public bodies with their first sighting of these changes.”

Tim Williams outlined the key features of the new directives and John Colling, head of the procurement policy unit and the UK’s representative on this issue, gave delegates an insight into current negotiations.

The proposed directive is a consolidation of three existing directives (supplies; works; services) and the main changes include framework contracts, competitive dialogue, electronic procurement, unification of concession rules and the exclusion of telecommunications.

Nicholas Bowd, director of procurement and commercial services at the Scottish Executive, gave a presentation entitled 'A Devolved Perspective' highlighting the new powers available to the Scottish Ministers since devolution in respect of the public sector procurement legislation.

There was also a fascinating behind the scenes look at the Scottish Executive’s decision making process for the soon to be announced e-procurement trials that will kick-start this important development in the public sector tendering process. "Both the potential winners of this contract, IBM and CapGemini, were exhibiting at the Conference," said Williams.


For further information, please contact Grant White, Quest Communications, Tel: 0131 478 4781

Notes to Editors
Tim Williams is available for interview to give a fuller explanation of the issues discussed at the conference. Tim is a recognised expert in the area of public sector procurement, having made submissions to the European Parliament in January on the new directives.

We are also in a position to provide a feature length article detailing the proposed changes in the EU directives.

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