Firms tendering for public construction contracts in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK would do well to check their credit and Health & Safety ratings, according to Douglas McLachlan, a solicitor specialising in Public Procurement law at Biggart Baillie LLP.
Following recent changes in the law making it easier to challenge public bodies for alleged failures in awarding public contracts under European Union procurement rules (and citing a “significant increase in procurement litigation”) South, East and North Ayrshire Councils recently announced that will be abandoning their use of an Approved List of contractors for construction works with effect from 1 October 2010.
Instead, all tender opportunities will be advertised on www.publiccontractscotland.gov.uk, the Scottish Government’s national tender advertising portal. Other commercial procurement portals, such as BiP Solutions’ Tracker service are also likely to pick these up and disseminate the advertisements to their subscribers.
Whereas access to the old All Ayrshire Approved Lists was governed by the Local Authorities themselves, South, East and North Ayrshire Councils now propose that financial vetting will be undertaken by Equifax, the credit reference agency. Health & Safety vetting will be carried out through the Contractors’ Health and Safety Scheme (CHAS) and Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSIP).
Commenting on the proposals, Douglas McLachlan of Biggart Baillie LLP said:
“Public bodies are now waking up to the fact that the old “Approved List” system is dead. In fact, it’s been dead for some time now, but the risk of litigation has grown to such an extent that they can no longer afford to ignore it any more.
“Businesses need to check their credit ratings with agencies like Equifax and Dun & Bradstreet; and make sure they have a clean bill of health from bodies such as CHAS and SSIP. It can take time to remedy any problems thrown up by these reports, so it’s well worth doing this now so as to avoid being excluded from competing for government contracts in the future.”