As purchasing within the public sector is concerned with the
spending of taxpayers' money, procurement processes are subject to
strict controls. There are both UK and European laws that define
how the sector must operate with everything being subject to audit
Purchasing has to be done in a fair and open way so that nobody
is unfairly excluded from the process. The public sector must also
demonstrate at all times that anything it buys is of benefit to the
public and that it provides the best value for money.
There is however a variation in the approach to procurement
across the public sector. With the need for public sector
organisations to be flexible according to their own circumstances,
there is no single or standard approach to purchasing. Many public
sector organisations have developed their own procedures, standards
and protocols within the legislative framework. It is important
that voluntary and community organisations become familiar with and
engage with the relevant public sector organisation from the
EC procurement directives
An EC treaty covers all public sector procurement contracts
within the European Community, no matter what their value. The
treaty sets down principles to prevent discrimination against
organisations from any member state.
The four fundamental principles that govern public sector
Principle 1: Equal treatment- suppliers are
entitled to equal and fair treatment at every stage of the contract
Principle 2: Transparency- information about
contracts and the rules to be applied should be available to all
interested candidates. The rules that will be applied in assessing
applications for tender lists and the criteria for selection should
be clearly advertised.
Principle 3: Proportionality- the demands
placed on providers should be both relevant and directly related to
the contract being awarded.
Principle 4: Mutual recognition- this requires
that the standards, specifications and qualifications in use
throughout the EU receive equal recognition to ensure services are
suitable for their intended purpose.
The principles are backed up by a series of EC procurement
directives. The directives have been included in UK law as a number
of regulations. The directives and regulations set down procedures
and standards (based on openness, non-discrimination and
competition) for choosing tenderers and awarding contracts with an
estimated value above a set limit. Further information on the EC
procurement directives and regulations can be found on the
Cabinet Office website.