Looking at the data on tenders over the past twelve months gives some insight into the ways that different governments are operating during the crisis. Looking at the twelve largest economies in Europe, we've been able to see how buyers have changed their buying practices since the start of the year.
From the chart above it is possible to see the impact of lockdown on each of the governments, with most showing a reduction in tendering in April of 2020, followed by a relatively fast return to normal publishing rates, with only the United Kingdom is publishing fewer tenders in June 2020 than it did in February 2020.
As a result of the pandemic, all governments in the sample have relaxed their procurement regimes, allowing buyers to go to direct award, rather than requiring a formal tender process, but some countries appear to have adopted this practice more widely than others. The United Kingdom is the primary example, with a ratio of three contract awards to one tender, whilst Norway is publishing one contract award to one and a half tenders.
Comparing the numbers of tenders published in 2020 with the same time period twelve months ago, it is possible to see the relative difference in tendering activity. The United Kingdom has published nearly 30% fewer tenders than it did in the first six months of 2019, but Ireland has actually increased its tender publishing volumes by more than 20%.
In conclusion, we can see that different governments have chosen to take different approaches to their procurement during the Covid-19 lockdown. Recent press in the UK has highlighted the way that the Government has been awarding contracts, questioning the wisdom of some of those contract awards. Our data doesn't show anything about the quality of the purchasing being undertaken by governments, but it does show, very clearly, that the UK's purchasing has changed significantly.
This raises interesting questions for the future of public purchasing as the UK tackles Brexit and leaves the EU. Procurement and the restrictions that EU procurement laws placed on the Government have long been an area of complaint for some Conservative politicians. Could the UK decide that a much lighter touch regime with a greater focus on award transparency rather than competition is the way forward?
All data has been taken from TED data returns 2019 - 2020. Analysis conducted on the 11th of July 2020.
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Photo by Martin Sanchez