On 5 July 2017, the Office of Government Procurement (OGP) published a new set of guidelines on the procurement of goods and services (the Guidelines). The Guidelines, available here, are primarily intended as guidance for public bodies but also provide a toolkit for suppliers and practitioners.
The OPG has simultaneously published an updated suite of template procurement documents. These new templates constitute a more user-friendly version of the April 2016 templates and were published by the OGP following feedback from contracting authorities. The updated template documents are available here.
The Guidelines – Overview
The Guidelines set out the rules which should be followed for below threshold procurement and also provide a guide to the EU rules on above threshold contracts (reflecting the 2014 Procurement Directives as implemented in Ireland). It is important to note that these guidelines replace previous guidelines published by the Department of Finance including the Public Procurement Guidelines - Competitive Process (2010) and the "Green Book" on Public Procurement (1994). The Capital Works Management Framework, which consists of separate policy and guidance relating to works and works related services, is unaffected by the Guidelines.
Some of the more helpful features of the Guidelines are the diagrams which outline the steps involved in each of the different procurement procedures. The Guidelines also contain useful tables which set out the monetary thresholds and the timeframes for each tendering process. The Guidelines also provide a plain language overview of the rules on both the evaluation of tenders and the modification of contracts, amongst other issues. The contents of the Guidelines include;
- Key Principles;
- Encouraging SME Participation;
- Environmental, Social and Labour Provisions;
- Main Phases of Public Procurement;
- Pre-Tendering Phase;
- Below Threshold - National Guidelines;
- Above Threshold - EU Rules;
- Framework Agreements;
- Electronic Procurement;
- Monitoring and Reporting;
- Freedom of Information; and
One of the key themes of the Guidelines is the requirement for contracting authorities to maintain appropriate records. Regulation 84 of the European Union (Award of Public Authority Contracts) Regulations 2016 requires contracting authorities to prepare a written report recording the progress of the procurement procedure which must be kept for three years from the date of contract award. This obligation is specifically covered in the Guidelines and Appendix VII contains a helpful checklist for the procurement and contract file.
One of the other notable features of the Guidelines is the inclusion of a suite of template letters for both above and below threshold procurement competitions, including template standstill letters and successful tenderer letters. The Guidelines will likely be of practical assistance to contracting authorities and other bodies subject to the public procurement rules. For public bodies looking for further information, Appendix 1 contains a consolidated table of links to applicable Irish procurement legislation, Key Circulars, Key Guidance and other "Useful Websites".