man working on procurement sheets at desk

Changes in procurement – why they matter to the voluntary sector in Wales

Published: 15/04/21 | Categories: Author: David Cook

Welsh Government has been engaging with the sector and other stakeholders around recent and upcoming changes to procurement processes. What might this look like and why does it matter? WCVA’s Policy Officer David Cook takes a look.

THE CONTEXT

Procurement in the UK has long been governed by European Union law and as such has been impacted by the UK’s withdrawal. So far, the landscape in this area has been one of continuity due to a combination of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Withdrawal Act 2018. These ensured that the rules would remain largely the same during the transition period, and that afterwards relevant EU laws would be temporarily transposed into UK law. With the transition period now ended there is an opportunity for the voluntary sector to influence proposed improvements to the procurement regimes at the Welsh and UK levels.

WCVA’S PRINCIPLES FOR PROCUREMENT

There are a number of key principles which the voluntary sector would like to see embedded across all procurement reforms – whether being developed by the UK, Welsh, or local governments.

Firstly, procurement should clearly differentiate between procuring goods, where the items received can often be functionally identical, and commissioning person-centred services, where a much greater emphasis needs to be placed on quality of service and flexibility of provision. We do not believe, for example, that the current UK Government Green Paper makes this distinction. As a result, we worry that services to support vulnerable people will be commissioned through a framework that isn’t set up to manage such complexity.

Secondly, all procurement policy should allow public bodies to adapt it to local circumstances. In Wales, the recent focus on the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and local economic growth could be used as a real boost to local economies, but only if local bodies have the power to innovate and adapt.

Thirdly, procurement rules should be written in a way which allows voluntary sector organisations, including social enterprises, to bid as part of a level playing field. This would include manageable contacts and an emphasis on social value as part of any tender. Guidance and support for commissioners should be explicit in their need to enable the voluntary sector to bid.

Finally, changes around procurement are often cultural. We have seen with Welsh Government’s reforms in recent years that uptake has been mixed, and often down to individual commissioners. We would encourage all governments to consider how to spread best practice to parts of Wales.

CURRENT AND RECENT CONSULTATIONS

Over the last few months, Welsh Government has been engaging widely about procurement, inviting opinion from WCVA, other voluntary sector partners, local authorities and service providers, to help shape what procurement will look like in future.

THE WALES PROCUREMENT POLICY STATEMENT

This third iteration of the WPPS sets the strategic direction for public sector procurement in Wales. It aims to ensure procurement has a role in the delivery of Welsh Government priorities such as decarbonization, social value, fair work and the foundational economy, and help measure Wales’ progress towards achieving the seven wellbeing goals. WCVA’s Risk, Procurement and Governance Manager – Emma Waldron, has been involved in extensive conversations with Welsh Government officials on this to ensure the voluntary sector’s voice was heard during development of the statement.

PROCUREMENT POLICY NOTE (PPN) 11/20: RESERVING BELOW THRESHOLD

Welsh Government sought the views of WCVA’s Risk,Procurement & Governance Manager on this note from the UK government.  Welsh Government reported in March 2021 that they are adopting the PPN and encourage the Welsh public sector to do so. They are currently considering whether the scope of the PPN can be extended for Wales and if so they will publish a WPPN.

THE COMMON FRAMEWORK FOR PUBLIC PROCUREMENT

The CFPP programme is a collaborative workstream between the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive. Its intention is to provide an agreed way of working that ensures full and proper consideration is given to each other’s views when developing and implementing policy in areas which fall within devolved competence but have previously been governed by EU law.  WCVA’s Risk, Procurement & Governance Manager has provided feedback to the Welsh Government on the framework.

THE DRAFT SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP AND PUBLIC PROCUREMENT (WALES) BILL

As well as seeking to use legislation to implement the recommendations of the Fair Work Commission, this Bill also intends to

  • ensure all procurement of services is undertaken with consideration of social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing
  • set out socially responsible procurement objectives
  • improve transparency in procurement processes
  • require local authorities to publish objectives designed to achieve socially responsible procurement goals.

Consultation on this Bill is ongoing. You can read WCVA’s briefing paper on this Bill and find out how to contribute to our response.

GREEN PAPER

UK Government has recently consulted on its procurement Green Paper, which aims to ‘speed up and simplify procurement processes, place value for money at their hear and unleash opportunities for small businesses, charities and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery’.

GET IN TOUCH

WCVA is better placed to respond to the sector on these issues when it has the fullest picture it can. We’d love to hear from as many organisations as possible – whether you currently bid for services, or don’t but may want to, or even if you have no plans at all. Please contact us on policy@wcva.cymru.