Procurement in times of Covid-19

One of the usual bugbears regarding public procurement rules is that they do not provide enough flexibility for speedy procurement in times of need. That is not exactly true at the best of times and certainly not in these days of pandemic.

I cannot comment specifically on healthcare related purchases, but there are plenty of other sectors and activities that may be disrupted at short notice by Covid-19. For example, the hiring of security services to manage crowds or the need to find new suppliers due to the inability of the current ones to provide the goods/services as contracted due to the effects of the virus. These can easily constitute reasons of extreme urgency which are not foreseeable by the contracting authority or brought about by itself.

If that is the case, then thankfully both Directive 2014/24/EU and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 provide with a 'shovel ready' exception for such a scenario. All that contracting authorities need to do is to undertake a negotiated procedure without prior publication of notice in accordance with Reg. 32(2)(c).

What I would not like to see, however, is the use of Covid-19 as an excuse to dismantle the whole procurement framework for not providing enough flexibility in times of need. The flexibility is there and on purpose to be used in emergencies. Just use it.

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