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Procurement Regulations

Before you make a purchase on behalf of your institution, are you aware of the regulations that apply to the purchasing process you undertake?

When you are procuring contracts that exceed certain monetary thresholds you must normally advertise the opportunity on the public sectors Find a Tender Service and on Contracts Finder following procedural rules set down in The Public Contracts Regulations before you can award the contract. Unless you are using an existing compliant framework agreement.

The current thresholds (2024) relevant to educational establishments are: £214,904.00 for goods and services, £5,372,609.00 for the procurement of works and £663,540.00 for the procurement of a specific list of services found in Schedule 3 of the Regulations

These thresholds apply to the value of the contract throughout its duration (not the annual value) including any possible extensions. If you purchase multiple successive contracts of the same type, the threshold applies to the aggregated spend of these contracts over a 12 month period. Or if you have a rolling contract with no end date or you can't calculate the total value of a contract then the threshold applies to the aggregated spend on the contract over a 4 year term.

What happens if we don't comply with the Procurement Regulations?

Like any system of rules, the Procurement Regulations depends upon an effective system of enforcement. Bidders who lost out as a result of breaches committed by your organisation have a means of redress. They are able to raise a claim at the High Court and if you are found to have breached the Regulations, the Court has the power to impose fines, award damages and set contracts aside. Negative publicity could of course follow and you will be required to pay your own and often the bidders legal fees.

The Further Education Library of Procurement (FELP) (managed by the CPC) provides more information on the Procurement Regulations. You can also contact your CPC Regional Procurement Advisor who would be happy to visit and provide you with more information.

Framework Agreements

Framework agreements provide an easier alternative way of complying with the Procurement Regulations. When you use a framework agreement you don't have to openly advertise the opportunity or follow the full procedural rules. Instead you 'call off' your specific requirements from the framework suppliers. If there is more than one supplier on the framework you are, at times, required to carry out a mini competition. Whilst the need to run a mini-competition may sound like a lot of work, it is much less onerous than completing a full tender exercise because the suppliers listed on the framework have been pre-qualified and are capable of meeting your needs. Furthermore you are getting the benefit of the total purchasing power of all those that are using the framework e.g. firms who bid and are placed on the frameworks are aiming to win a significant proportion of the business available from the framework members and not just your college.

There are a number of simple 'rules' including:

  • What you are buying from the framework must fall within its scope e.g. you would not use a stationery framework to purchase printers (even though the framework supplier may be able to provide them.)
  • The award criteria you use to make your decision must be based on the award criteria set out in the framework agreement focusing on your particular requirement. This means the criteria you use need not be the same as in the original framework agreement but can be fine-tuned to reflect the particulars of your requirement. With many frameworks, the guidance material will tell you the award criteria and then advise that you may adjust their weightings. You must make it clear in the procurement documentation the criteria to be used for awarding call-off contracts.
  • If the value of what you are purchasing using the framework is above the EU thresholds, there are some specific steps that you need to follow.

The mini-competition must be run like a sealed tender i.e.

  • The specification is sent in writing to all the framework suppliers at the same time. CPC have two electronic quote tools that can be used with CPC frameworks to send your mini competition documents securely to framework suppliers.
  • They are asked to respond in writing by a stated time and date that gives the supplier a reasonable amount of time to respond proportionately to your requirement.
  • The submissions should be opened only after the deadline and evaluated against the stated award criteria.
  • The decision is made and outcome notified to all bidders.
  • Remember the key principles are to be open, fair and transparent.

Mini Competition Guidelines

Further guidance on how to conduct a mini competition is available on the FELP website under A Guide to Using Framework Agreements.