Government changes procurement policy in response to Covid-19 (18 March 2020)

The government has announced today (Mar 18) a change in their approach to the procurement of goods and services amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with immediate effect.

In order to procure goods, services and works with extreme urgency during this time of crisis when the supply chain is disrupted, the government has permitted various new actions.

These include:

·         Direct award due to extreme urgency.

·         Direct award due to absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights.

·         Call off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system.

·         Call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales.

·         Extending or modifying a contract during its term.

Contracting authorities are permitted to enter into contracts prior to competing or advertising the requirement, providing they can prove the need for extreme urgency, including public health risk or reacting to a genuine emergency.

If there is no time to run a traditional procurement process and this situation is not attributed to the contracting authority, the contract may be entered in this new way.

A written justification that satisfies these stipulations must be kept by the authorities and requirements should be limited to what is ‘absolutely necessary’ in terms of what is being procured and length of the contract.

On the official Cabinet Office response, it read:

“It is important that contracting authorities continue to achieve value for money and use good commercial judgement during any direct award. Whilst prices may be higher than would be expected in a regular market, any abnormally high pricing should be approved by the appropriate commercial director.

A direct award may be given where the works, goods or services needed can only be supplied by a particular supplier because there is no competition due to capability or technical reasons, as long as there is no reasonable alternative or the requirement isn’t being over-specified.