• 17/08/2017

Public procurement policy

Public procurement policy

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As a buyer or commissioner of supplies, services and works for the public sector you need to understand and be able to readily access the regulations and policies relating to procurement.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is responsible for the legal framework for public sector procurement and leads on the development and implementation of procurement policies for government.


The over-riding procurement policy requirement is that all public procurement must be based on value for money, defined as “the best mix of quality and effectiveness for the least outlay over the period of use of the goods or services bought”. This should be achieved through competition, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

Public sector procurement is subject to a legal framework which encourages free and open competition and value for money, in line with internationally and nationally agreed obligations and regulations. As part of its strategy, the government aligns procurement policies with this legal framework, as well as with its wider policy objectives.

The legal framework – international obligations

Treaty obligations

Public procurement is subject to the EU Treaty principles of:

  • non-discrimination
  • free movement of goods
  • freedom to provide services
  • freedom of establishment

In addition to these fundamental treaty principles, some general principles of law have emerged from the case law of the European Court of Justice. The most important of these general principles of law for you to be aware of in the procurement context are:

  • equality of treatment
  • transparency
  • mutual recognition
  • proportionality

EU procurement directives

Since the 1970s, the EU has adopted legislation to ensure that the EU public procurement market is open and competitive and that suppliers are treated equally and fairly. The rules cover aspects such as advertising of contracts, procedures for assessing company credentials, awarding the contracts and remedies (penalties) when these rules are breached.

The EU rules are contained in a series of directives that are updated from time to time. Member states have to make national legislation (regulations) to implement the EU rules in domestic law by certain deadlines. The most recent update of the EU procurement directives was in April 2014. This followed a successful lobbying campaign by the UK government and our EUpartners to negotiate a simpler, more flexible regime of procurement rules. Member states then had 2 years to implement these in national law i.e. by April 2016.

These directives are:

  • Public Sector: Directive 2014/24/EUof the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on public procurement and repealing Directive 2004/18/EC
  • Concessions: Directive 2014/23/EUof the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on the award of concession contracts
  • Utilities: Directive 2014/25/EUof the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 February 2014 on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors and repealing Directive 2004/17/EC

Public procurement is also subject to the World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement