Would it surprise you to hear that procurement law has a lot in common with maternity leave? It may sound like a strange comparison, but having recently returned to the world of procurement law after months of baby bliss I can’t help but notice some parallels.

  • Pre-procurement planning, including the proper shaping of a requirement, setting of realistic timescales and conducting appropriate stakeholder engagement is critical.  Procuring items with an infant in tow is more challenging when the items to be purchased have not been pre-planned, the timescales are pressing and the stakeholder is not supportive of the process.
  • The ability to award contracts on the basis of lowest price was abandoned with the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2015 in favour of evaluating the most-economically advantageous tenders on the basis of the “best price-quality ratio”, assessed against qualitative, environmental and/or social aspects linked to the subject matter of the contract.  I have learned that babies can be very discerning, and will often reject any attempt to offer them supplies procured on the basis of lowest price!
  • In Central Surrey Health Limited v NHS Surrey Downs CCG [1], the defendant procured a contract for adult health and social support services. A consortium, led by Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust and including Central Surrey Health (the complainant and the incumbent provider) was the sole bidder.  The defendant accepted the consortium’s bid but imposed a requirement to enter into a binding joint venture. Discussions on the joint venture broke down and Central Surrey Health was consequently removed from the consortium.  Central Surrey Health applied for the award to be suspended, arguing that their removal from the consortium constituted a material change. The Technology and Construction Court declined the defendant’s application to have the automatic suspension lifted but did not comment on the substantive issue of material change in the context of consortia, which we understand has now been resolved between the parties.  It takes a village to raise a child goes the old proverb.  At the very least, I think it takes a consortium.  Relying on the capacities of others is sometimes necessary to meet the minimum requirements of the “authority”. Much of the time, having a range of skills and experience can enhance performance and spread the risk.

Maternity leave is rarely economically advantageous, but it is certainly full of tender opportunities.