Navigating procurement in unprecedented times

Alex Wakefield
The government has clarified the guidance on procurement processes and supplier relief as a result of COVID-19.

Despite the exceptional circumstances, the built environment sectors continue many of their usual activities. Property assets remain in use, while some construction projects and programmes continue to progress, albeit with restrictions and at a reduced pace. Future projects are being planned for when ‘normal’ life resumes, and emergency requirements are being created and facilitated at break-neck speed.

The government has recently released two Procurement Policy Notes (PPN) which provide contracting bodies with current guidance on:

  • procurement options for emergency works directly related to helping to fight COVID-19 (PPN 01/20)
  • providing supplier relief to ensure service continuity (PPN 02/20)

Both guidance documents are designed to provide short-term relief and support, to ensure emergency works can proceed at pace and the supply of goods and services can be maintained by continued payment throughout the supply chain. This is excellent news, but certain rules still have to be followed.

Ensuring compliance

PPN 01/20 allows contracting authorities to adjust their procurement approach to meet urgent/emergency needs. To protect public money and resources, authorities must demonstrate a robust business case, suitable governance and best-value decisions.

The quickest and most efficient way to procure may be through the use of existing framework agreements—particularly those with a designated Direct Award process. These provide clients with a readymade, simple and compliant solution, accelerating access to specialist resources whilst achieving best value and minimising risk.

A robust audit trail is essential, recording the decision made, the reasoning behind the decision and the process used to award, extend or modify a contract. Relevant award notices should still be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) and Contracts Finder within the statutory time limits.

For non-emergency works, the procurement processes have not changed.

Payment of the supply chain

PPN 02/20 provides guidance on the payment of suppliers, to ensure service continuity during and after the COVID-19 crisis. It aims to ensure that suppliers at risk can resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak has passed. Clients are recommended to follow several key steps to assess their projects and suppliers—an independent review may be a good idea here, if there are doubts about any part of the process.

Where can Faithful+Gould help?

Naturally, all built environment stakeholders are doing what they can to support essential services and to ensure survival of businesses of all sizes during the current crisis. Our large nationwide workforce is now home-based and continues to support clients with ongoing projects.  In some cases, our clients have requested that we undertake preparatory work such as feasibility studies and business case preparation on future schemes to ensure that they are in the best possible shape for when life returns to ‘normal’.

We have significant experience of assessing contracts, claims, programmes, extensions of time and payment requests, ensuring that a true ‘open book’ approach is adopted where applicable. Working collaboratively with clients, contractors and design teams, we are well positioned to support contract reviews and ensure transparent solutions are implemented. Our appointment on several national and regional frameworks with Direct Award options also enables clients to access our services quickly, efficiently and with no procurement risk.

Please get in touch to discuss your procurement needs—our team is ready to help, whether to mobilise an emergency project, advise on whether PPN 01/20 is applicable,  review PPN 02/20 key steps, or support a longer-term plan.

 

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