Boris Johnson takes aim at procurement once more.

In a leadership hustings in Nottingham, Mr Johnson said he wanted to change public procurement rules which could see UK companies favoured when bidding for billions of pounds worth of Government work.

The obvious figure Johnson is missing here is that 97% or so of procurement is spent with British companies, so the upside of the measure is pretty much non-existent. However, any move to tilt the playing field in favour of British companies will trigger some significant downsides. First, obviously access to the EU public procurement market would be foreclosed and this would predominantly affect those companies with an international outlook. In other words, it would affect directly the “global Britain” type of companies.

Second, the UK has recently signed an agreement to join the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA) as soon as it leaves the EU. This includes a set of commitments from the UK and naturally the assumption the current rules (which already are GPA compliant) are not rolled back. If they are, then the UK would surely have to renegotiate its participation in the agreement. In any event, I remain of the opinion that while the UK wants to stay within the GPA framework the flexibility to simply change procurement rules to its heart content is very limited.

Boris Johnson on procurement

This is the transcript of Johnson’s interview with Sky’s Sophie Ridge:

SR: It was a very simple question. Are you prepared to see borrowing go up?

BJ: If it's borrowing to finance great infrastructure projects and there is an opportunity to borrow at low rates and do things for the long term benefit of the country then we should do them. But there are some projects- don't forget in this country we are spending about £250 billion on public procurement per year of one kind or another. Don't tell me there aren't significant savings to be found in the way that we spend that money.

In a time where the main outsourcers are dropping like flies and competition is flagging where exactly Wille these ‘savings’ come from?

Now speaking about his own track record managing money, I think savings could be found on some of Johnson’s more emblematic projects. Like the Routemaster.

Plus, Garden Bridge. I will just leave it there.

Links I Liked [Public Procurement]

1. European Commission publishes final version of its much awaited Notice on the notion of State aid as referred to in Article 107(1) TFEU. Albert's comments are here.

2. UK Government consults on changes to how councils publish procurement data. Consultation is available here.

3. Doubts over Thames garden bridge as Sadiq Khan probes £175m project. Great writeup. This is a textbook example of legalising the folly of pre-procurement contacts between economic operators and contracting authorities. Only the best connected will benefit from this approach which is in effect not distinguishable from lobbying.

4. Judge forces Spain to change its tender specifications for the new high speed rail rolling stock (Spanish only). And rightly so as the original version of the awarding criteria reserved marks for local train building. For the UK Government to take into consideration next time a tender for rolling stock is put out and that other countries are not playing by EU rules.

5. Uncovering Corruption Is a Risky Endeavor in Spain. Very hard to read and in line with my experience in the country (but that may be availability bias on my part).