Invitations to candidates under Reg. 54 Public Contracts Regulations 2015

Reg.54 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015) establishes requirements for the invitations to candidates that need to be sent in two-stage procurement procedures, in line with the rules of Article 54 and Annex IX of Directive 2014/24

The main objective of this provision is to ensure that equal treatment is respected [reg.18(1) PCR2015], particularly in order to avoid any time advantages derived from non-simulatenous communication with interested candidates. Pedro share the view that this is the logic and justification for these rules (here).

To that effect, reg.54(1) and (2) PCR2015 impose the obligation for the contracting authority to invite simultaneously and in writing the candidates selected at the end of the first phase of restricted procedures, competitive dialogue procedures, innovation partnerships and competitive procedures with negotiation to submit their tender; or the economic operators which have expressed their interest after a prior information notice (PIN) used by a sub-central contracting authority as a call for competition in accordance with reg.26(9) PCR2015 to confirm their continuing interest.

Reg.54(3) PCR2015 sets the specific content of the invitations to candidates, which must as a minimum (a) include a reference to the electronic address at which the procurement documents have been made directly available by electronic means, and (b) be accompanied by the procurement documents, where those documents have not been the subject of unrestricted and full direct access, free of charge, for the reasons referred to in reg.53(3) or (4) PCR2015 and have not already been made otherwise available. The remainder of reg.54 PCR2015 consolidates the requirements of Annex IX of Dir 2014/24.

The rule on disclosure of procurement documents pegged to the invitation to candidates [reg.54(3)] is a functional equivalent to the electronic availability of procurement documents under reg. 53 PCR2015 discussed yesterday (see here and here) and, in that regard, supports the possibility of having published the PIN or initial contract notice without all documents being made electronically available by means of the internet, as reg.54(4) PCR2015 clearly allows for staggered disclosure of documentation. 

It does require the contracting authority to have previously raised issues of confidentiality or technical incompatibility or inadequacy, but a functional interpretation should not be limited to those because the rule is, in my view, simply aimed at avoiding charging the invited tenderers with the obligation to request them as per reg.53(6) PCR2015, hence reducing the number of communications in the process for the sake of procedural economy and speediness.

Therefore, in cases where the contracting authority had not disclosed documents earlier for reasons other than strict confidentiality (which would otherwise undesirably work as a catch all), such as technical impossibility of disclosing documents still being finalised or requests for clarifications submitted by interested tenderers, those additional documents must also be made available at this stage together with the invitation to tenderers.