Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Abu Qatada meets Public Contracts Regulations

"What" I hear you ask, "has an alleged Islamic extremist got remotely to do with public procurement?"

Well it's quite straightforward, the proposed deportation of Abu Qatada has been stalled as a result of a dispute over the calculation of the deadline for his appeal.  The European Court of Human Rights said the deadline was midnight on 17 April, while the Home Office say midnight on 16th.  The upshot being the Abu lodged an appeal on the 17th an hour within the ECHR deadline, while outside the Home Office deadline.  Now, while the legal arguments are considered and the calendar checked, there are lessons for public procurement.
  1. Understand and be clear what your own procurement rules say. For example, is the requirement for the minimum return date for tenders based on working days or calendar days?  I have spoken to chief officers who have not been able to establish their own rules and their procurement staff didn't know!
  2. Understand the counting method of the Public Procurement Regulations. Just in case you haven't noticed there is a quirk in how those days are calculated.
  3. Whenever a deadline is stated, it is a deadline and shouldn't be 'stretched' at all.  I wish I had a pound for each of the justifications I have heard from suppliers who have 'just missed the latest time for receipt' - I am absolutely convinced there is potential book on the more humorous yarns.
  4. When a deadline for exercising an option on a contract is stated make sure it is acted upon.  Yes, I have come across a significant contract which was extended due to the implied extension when an extension was far from intended,
  5. When you have a system which states contract review date make sure someone acts upon that.  Yes, I have asked what happened when a stated review date was reached only to hear an email reminder was triggered but no-one did anything on receipt of the reminder.
  6. Finally, when a contract has an expiry date, put in place the arrangements for the new contract in ample time.  I have come across contracts which have been extended so long no one was really clear how they could go forward without drawing attention to the mess.
So, remember Abu and remember to get you get your procurement dates right!   

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