The final report of an inquiry instigated by the UK House of Commons on the basic requirements for public sector procurement processes was released earlier this month. The Laidlaw Inquiry's final report contains important lessons on procurement that are relevant to the legal principles which apply in any New Zealand court proceedings on public sector procurement.
The Inquiry was initiated following a recent procurement process conducted by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) for a new operator of passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line. The unsuccessful incumbent, Virgin Trains Limited, challenged the DfT's decision to award the tender to a different provider, alleging flaws in DfT's evaluation process and an anti-Branson approach by the DfT. Just hours before the court hearing in October, the UK Transport Secretary cancelled the procurement and extended Virgin's contract by 23 months.
The Report contained the following key lessons, equally relevant to public sector procurement in the New Zealand context:
- Provide bidders with adequate information about expectations.
- Ensure that the evaluation criteria are appropriate for the procurement.
- Apply the evaluation criteria and other rules notified to tenderers.
- Ensure appropriate resourcing of the project and allow for sufficient time taking into account complexity of the procurement.
- Remain professional at all times and do not reflect bias for or against any tenderer.
For a detailed breakdown of these lessons, please read Russell McVeagh's summary, here.