Public procurement is the purchasing of goods, services or works by the public sector. It is regulated by a system of rules deriving from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. A separate set of rules (but one which stems from the same origins) applies to procurement by utilities; a third regulates the procurement of concession contracts, whether by the public sector or by utilities.
Following the UK's departure from the EU and the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the EU-derived procurement rulebook has generally been retained, with just a few changes made. In future however, the UK procurement rulebook looks set to diverge more extensively from the EU-derived regime as the UK takes advantage of the flexibilities it now has as a non-EU member state. The government's proposals, published in the Transforming public procurement Green Paper and consulted on during 2021, set out the proposed direction of travel. On 6 December 2021, the government provided an update by publishing its response to the consultation. Changes include a unified regime (as opposed to separate regimes for public procurement, utilities procurement and concessions) and general procedural simplification. However, the changes are unlikely to be implemented before 2023.
The procurement regime exists to open up public procurement to competition. It does so by setting out a legal framework of rules to govern the award of public contracts, wherever those contracts come within the scope of the rules (by virtue of their nature and subject matter) and exceed certain financial thresholds.
This section focuses principally on the part of the national procurement regime applying to the public sector (central and sub-central government, other public-sector bodies and bodies governed by public law) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Procurement by utilities and of concession contracts are touched on where appropriate. Scotland has its own set of procurement rules, which are generally similar but with some appreciable differences.