The CCS has just published a stern reminder to contracting authorities of their legal obligations to publish information on Contracts Finder. This is set out in Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 02/17 "Promoting Greater Transparency".
The original aim behind Contracts Finder was to promote greater transparency in commercial activity and encourage SME participation. Contracting authorities are required to publish not only information in relation to above EU threshold contracts but also information in relation to some contracts below these thresholds. The statutory requirements on Contracts Finder are set out in Regulations 106 – 112 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (as amended).
It is worth noting that recently, the Federation of Small Businesses published a report on public procurement which contains a section which specifically criticises the lack of local government use of Contracts Finder and asks for some action to be taken so that SMEs can access public contracts more easily. It may be that PPN 02/17 has been issued in response to concerns such as those raised by the Federation of Small Businesses
PPN 02/17 is addressed to central government, agencies, non departmental public bodies, wider public sector, local authorities and NHS bodies. It reminds these "in scope organisations" that they "have wide responsibilities in relation to transparency", emphasising the statutory nature of the obligations to publish on Contracts Finder.
This recently issued PPN does not introduce any new obligations. It summarises existing guidance and obligations "…in some cases restating requirements that have been in effect since 26 February 2015". It reiterates the thresholds for Contracts Finder publication (currently: Central Contracting Authorities: £10,000 and Sub Central Contracting Authorities and NHS Trusts: £25,000) and reminds in-scope organisations of their obligations in relation to both advertisement and award information. It specifically picks up on the obligation to publish contract award information on Contracts Finder in relation to framework call-offs and also contracts that may not have been openly advertised.
A paragraph aimed at local authority buyers, reminds them of their additional obligations under The Local Government (Transparency Requirements) (England) Regulations 2015 and Part 2 of the Local Government Transparency Code; a recent consultation took place on strengthening these particular obligations.
PPN 02/17 needs to be read in conjunction with the previously published CCS 'Guidance on the new transparency requirements for publishing on Contracts Finder', which sets out in detail the obligations placed on contracting authorities.
Our Byte size procurement updates 16 (Advertising on Contracts Finder - EU contracts) and 17 (Advertising on Contracts Finder - contracts below the EU thresholds) cover the Contracts Finder obligations in more detail.