Public procurement regulations and COVID-19

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Yesterday (18th March 2020) afternoon saw the government release the first Procurement Policy Note (PPN) of the year, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. PPN 01/20 recognises that the public health crisis will mean contracting authorities will need to urgently procure goods, services and works. The PPN identifies a number of ways contracting authorities can procure urgently, including via Regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. This provision, mirrored by Regulation 50(1)(d) of the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016, permits direct awards due to extreme urgency.

Authorities will be able to rely on the extreme urgency provisions provided the following conditions are met:

  • There are genuine reasons for extreme urgency, e.g. the procurement is required due to a need to respond to the COVID-19 consequences immediately;
  • The events that have led to the need for extreme urgency were unforeseeable;
  • It is impossible to comply with the usual timescales in the Regulations; and
  • The situation is not attributable to the contracting authority.

Other options suggested by the government include:

  • direct award due to absence of competition or protection of exclusive rights;
  • call off from an existing framework agreement or dynamic purchasing system;
  • call for competition using a standard procedure with accelerated timescales; and
  • extending or modifying a contract during its term.

We have extensive experience advising on all aspects of the procurement process, and can assist contracting authorities and utilities with their urgent procurement needs and any contractual issues they are facing in light of COVID-19. Our public procurement specialists and contracts lawyers can advise which of the above options is most appropriate to a particular situation, and guide clients through the process.

This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Law and guidance relating to the COVID19 pandemic is continually being updated and the law may have changed since this page was first published. If you would like further advice and assistance in relation to any issues raised, please contact us today by telephone or email

Posted in Coronavirus (COVID-19), Infrastructure, Juli Lau, Latest news and blog, Local government, Oliver Slater, Procurement.