Value for money remains critical in the government contracts space. However, this “usual trend of doing more with less” has become only one in a host of factors considered by contracting authorities.
In interviews during our research for WWL: Government Contracts 2019, lawyers across Europe described a changing environment in the sector with “a lot of focus on transparency”, “a lot more compliance” and “greater scrutiny” from authorities at all stages of the procurement process. In the Czech Republic, for instance, new rules have imposed “greater levels of disclosure on lawyers” and public procurement tenders increasingly rely on “alternative valuation criteria”. As a result, the current focus is “not only price but also the quality of teams”.
Environmental concerns also feature prominently across Europe. This “hot topic” has arisen from the implementation of a 2014 EU Directive on public procurement (2014). The Directive outlines environmental, social and labour values for member states to pursue in their procurement undertakings. In the UK, sources told us that authorities are now placing considerable weight on “social value”, asking, “What else can bidders provide to public bodies in terms of value?” However, these same commentators expressed doubts as to how this will be assessed.
In the aftermath of collapse of gigantic UK construction firm Carillion , practitioners in the UK and Ireland reported an “increasing robustness in the analysis of how sound a business is”. They indicated that the government “is definitely changing policy” in order to avoid a repeat incident. Lawyers also highlighted the Hackitt Report, looking into building regulations and fire safety – the recommendations of which are expected to be given the force of law by 2021. These will introduce the concept of “procurement best practice” and usher in significant reforms in the construction procurement sector.