Council procurement innovates around Covid-19 restrictions

As the country, and indeed the world cease operations to tackle this pandemic, public services must continue, and arguably now more than ever - so must public procurement.

Last week, the government made it easier than ever to facilitate the procurement of goods and services in order to allow emergency contracts to be awarded without the delay of red tape.

Paul Meigh, Head of Procurement at Central Bedfordshire Council spoke to PSE about the additional challenges this virus has posed on public procurement.  

“It’s more challenging of course to source products and services when there are restrictions on movement and meetings.

“Supply chains are at risk and we’re are monitoring essential services such as household waste, where staff sickness and self-isolation can compromise the services ability to remove waste, creating a potential health hazard.

“Supplies to care homes, e.g. food and PPE are being monitored on a daily basis and being addressed as needed. School meals suppliers no longer have a business, which is challenging for them now and will be challenging for Councils in future. These are just some of the current examples.

“From a sourcing perspective, the epidemic is being treated as an emergency – the procurement legislation, our Council Constitution, policies and procedures provide for emergency situations, enabling us to cut through red tape where needed.

The council has implemented its Procurement contingency plan and the entire team is now working from home on a permanent basis.

“We have all the electronic tools at our disposal including video conferencing and are using them to the full. My team are safe and fully operational.

However difficult the situation might be, Mr Meigh is clear in the importance of protecting his community and the essential role procurement has to play in that.

“The Council’s role is to provide a needed service to its residents. Council’s look after the vulnerable and it’s vital that essential services and their supply chains are maintained, as these are the very folk most at risk from Coronavirus.”

Though some demands on the supply chain have slowed right down, there are certain things that are in higher demand than ever.

“This is a very fast-moving evolving situation. The current, right now, topic of conversation is PPE for care homes. A resident who contracts the virus will still need to be looked after, whilst not necessarily requiring hospitalisation. The staff and other residents will need to be protected. “

As councils across the country adapt to the ‘new normal’, and public sector professionals get used to the new process of procurement in this emergency situation, Mr Meigh is preparing his colleagues for every eventuality with rapid response a key priority.

“My advice to colleagues confronted with an emergency is to call me to discuss and agree a way forward. To go forward on an agreed basis and to ensure the audit trail of decisions made is put in place for scrutiny later but not to slow down the actions needed – meaning that in some cases the paperwork will follow.”


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