Back to basics

The European Commission prescribes that member states implement national laws dealing with public procurement. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland we have the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 (as amended) (“the Regulations”). If caught by the Regulations, a contracting authority must follow certain procedures in procuring a public contract.  

The Regulations

The Regulations apply whenever a contracting authority seeks offers in relation to a proposed public supply, works or services contract, framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system.

The Regulations do not apply to contracts below the relevant financial threshold.  Click here to see a table setting this out.  

The legal terms

  • A contracting authority is any of the following (plus associations financed, formed and/or managed by them): a minister of the crown, government department, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission, Scottish ministers, the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, the Nationally Assembly for Wales, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities, police authorities, waste disposal authorities in Greater London, the Broads Authority, a national park authority or any entity which enters into contracts for and on behalf of any of these. The categories are spilt further and categorised into those listed in Schedule 1 to the Regulations and all other authorities who fulfil the definition of a contracting authority. (For a list of Schedule 1 authorities as first published in the Regulations see www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2006/20060005) or for an up to date list of Schedule 1 authorities please get in touch with me.
  • A public supply contract must be in writing and be for consideration for the purchase or hire of goods which includes the siting or installation of such goods. In order for the contract to be classed as supply, the value of the contract attributable to the goods must be higher than the value attributable to the placing or installation.
  • A public works contract is a contract for the carrying out of works for the contracting authority or engaging a person to procure the carrying out of works for the contracting authority to specified requirements. It must also be in writing and be for consideration. A public services contract is defined as a contract in writing for consideration under which a public authority engages a person to provide services which are not covered under works or supplies.
  • A framework agreement is an agreement or arrangement between one or more contracting authorities and one or more economic operators which establishes the terms under which the economic operator will enter into one or more contracts with the contracting authority in the period during which the framework agreement applies.
  • A dynamic purchasing system means a completely electronic system of limited duration which is established to purchase commonly used goods, work and services and which is open, for its duration, for economic operators to satisfy the selection criteria and submit tenders.
  • An economic operator is a contractor, supplier or services provider.

In the next issue I will look at advertising in the official journal of the European Union, pre qualification questionnaires and invitations to tender.