Guest Blog: Scottish Public Sector Procurement Regulations Explained
Kenny Govan, Senior Procurement Officer at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), wrote a guest blog for the Supplier Development Programme for the month of February 2021.
In the Scottish public sector, procurement is governed by law and public sector buyers don’t - as a rule - make things up as they go along and put things in place just to frustrate bidders. By and large, the size and contents of public sector tenders are due to regulatory requirements that must be met in compliance with the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015 (PCS15) and the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Reform Act).
These regulations are complex and often difficult to comprehend in places; however, there are important points within them that potential bidders should be aware of when tendering for public sector work.
Tender Timescales and Deadlines
Regulation 2 of PCS15 deals in the main with the minimum timescales which a buyer must allow a bidder to tender, and different types of tender attract different timescales depending on their complexity or how they are advertised. This regulation doesn’t actually tell you what these timescales are, but provides reference points to where you can find these elsewhere within the document.
You will not find any mention anywhere in regulations of the statement common to practically all tenders: that bids will not be accepted after the set date and time for return. This is instead one of those statements made that carry the spirit but not the letter of the regulations, which are very clear throughout, in that the tender process must be conducted in such a way as to ensure “equal treatment and transparency”. The “transparency” rule is met when the buyer is clear as to the return date and time set, and the “equal treatment” element met as all bidders have been given precisely the same amount of time to bid as each other, and no bidder can be offered more time to another - for example, through acceptance of a late bid.
Some organisations will offer some leeway for late bids when evidence can be provided by the bidder of system faults or similar preventing the bid being made, but the general unwritten rule here remains and bidders are always advised to lodge their tender as early as possible and not to leave it to the last minute and trust to luck that everything goes smoothly.
Regulation 2 of PCS15 also details the use of Common Procurement Vocabulary (CPV) Codes in tenders. When advertising a tender, a buyer will choose the CPV Code(s) most closely aligned with the subject matter of the tender, as each code carries a description of the type of commodity or service.
Whilst suppliers won’t see any mention of these in a tender itself, CPV Codes are absolutely essential to the tender when advertised and to suppliers when registering on the Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) website. When registering on PCS, the bidder will have to choose the CPV description(s) most closely linked with their field of work, and when a tender is advertised using that CPV Code, they will be alerted to the fact by the system.
Bidders are advised to very carefully select all the relevant CPV Codes, but are cautioned not to simply register for all CPV Codes, as suppliers will in turn be inundated by alerts for opportunities of no interest and will invariably miss those that are.
Helping You Bid Better
The Supplier Development Programme has several free online webinars which can help Scottish based SMEs and supported businesses understand and use procurement regulations and how they apply to the bidding process. Rather than pay for expensive bid writers, I suggest Scottish suppliers first trying investing a bit of time into the free support available from SDP by self-selecting a tender training course.
If you are a Scottish SME or supported business, you can login and view contact details for Kenny Govan at Strathclyde Partnership for Transport.
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