The Cabinet Office has produced guidance to assist departments in meeting the procurement and contracting transparency requirements and ensure a consistent approach.
Transparency in procurement and contracting
Transparency in procurement
The government is committed to greater transparency across its operations to enable the public to hold public bodies and politicians to account. This includes commitments relating to public procurement.
Legal requirements to publish
All in-scope bodies must, as a minimum, follow the legal requirements to publish advertised opportunities and awards on Contracts Finder covered by the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
The Regulations require in-scope bodies to publish all advertised UK public sector procurement opportunities and contract awards above certain thresholds on Contracts Finder.
The thresholds are:
- £10,000 for central government bodies and
- £25,000 for wider public sector bodies
Central Government transparency and publication of contracts
Central Government buyers must publish all tender documents and contracts with a contract value of over £10,000 on Contracts Finder.
The Transparency Principles were updated on 16 February 2017. These require Central Government departments to proactively release information in line with the above commitments and during the life of the contract.
You should establish at the start of a contract what information can be published with exemptions following the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, for example on national security or commercial confidentiality grounds. Only genuinely commercially sensitive information should be withheld.
The Local Government Transparency Code 2015
As a Local Government buyer, in addition to the legal requirements to publish covered by both the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and the Local Government (Transparency Requirements) (England) Regulations 2015 legislation, there are additional recommended requirements for greater disclosure in the Local Government Transparency Code.
For procurement information this includes monthly (or preferably real time) publication on Contracts Finder of every invitation to tender or invitation to quote for contracts to provide goods and/or services with a value that exceeds £10,000 (and a lower thresholds of £500 is recommended), details of ITTs that have not been formerly advertised and all contracts in their entirety where the value of the contract exceeds £5,000. Responsibility for this legislation and Code lies with the Department for Communities and Local Government, who conducted a consultation on strengthening the code, details of which can be found online.
A redeveloped Contracts Finder website was launched in February 2015 alongside the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The Regulations require in-scope bodies to publish all advertised UK public sector procurement opportunities and contract awards above certain thresholds on Contracts Finder:
- £10,000 for central government bodies and
- £25,000 for wider public sector bodies)
As the single publishing portal for all public sector procurement opportunities, Contracts Finder is a critical part of delivering the government’s commitments for transparency in procurement and for making it easier and more accessible for smaller businesses and voluntary or charitable organisations to do business with the public sector.
Contracts Finder allows users to view and search for early market engagement notices and future opportunities, used by buyers to engage with suppliers to check interest in and define future procurement needs, opportunities that are currently open to tender and awarded contracts.
User guides on how to use Contracts Finder is available from our service support team at ContractsFinder@crowncommercial.gov.uk
Building on the measures the government has already taken to open up its procurement frameworks to small and innovative businesses, we also extended Contracts Finder to the subcontracting market in 2016, offering wider access to procurement opportunities.
Contractors to the Public Sector can now register directly on Contracts Finder to advertise opportunities in their supply chains. A user guide is available by emailing our service support team at ContractsFinder@crowncommercial.gov.uk.
Contracting authorities are requested to encourage their key suppliers to make use of this service. Further detail can be obtained by contacting our service support team at ContractsFinder@crowncommercial.gov.uk.
The UK Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18 was published on 12 May 2016. It committed to implement the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) in CCS operations by October 2016 and to begin applying this approach to major infrastructure projects, starting with High Speed Two (HS2), and rolling out OCDS across government thereafter. OCDS has been implemented for all data published on Contracts Finder and can be accessed online.