In the recent case of Mears Limited v Leeds City Council, two important points on public procurement were raised.
Leeds City Council undertook a procurement exercise in relation to capital improvement and refurbishment works for social housing. Mears was a pre-qualified tenderer and was invited to participate in competitive dialogue. Mears' tender was unsuccessful and it issued a claim against the local authority for breach of the Public Contract Regulations 2006. The High Court was required to determine whether it was appropriate for the local authority to disclose documents which it claimed should be kept confidential and whether part of Mears' claim was time barred. The High Court ruled that whilst "model answers" used for the marking of tenders were confidential, this did not prevent them from being disclosed in relation to the hearing to ensure fairness in legal proceedings. The court held that the confidentiality of the disclosed documents should be preserved by use of a confidentiality ring ie, limiting the number of representatives from Mears who could review the “model answers”.
Mears was not entirely successful though, the High Court struck out part of its claim as it was brought outside the statutory three month time limit. Mears had claimed that the local authority had written to the tenderers amending pricing aspects of the tender and did not give tenderers sufficient time to respond. The High Court held that Mears had sufficient knowledge at the time of the correspondence to take a view whether there had been an infringement of the regulations. It did not have to have knowledge of its loss before it brought proceedings.