Specific exclusions for service contracts under Reg.10 Public Contracts Regulations 2015

Following the list of specific derogations in Art 10 of Directive 2014/24, reg. 10 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (PCR2015) lists a significant number of services contracts that are excluded from the procurement rules of its Part 2. 

Under the specific exclusions for service contracts, a relatively large number of categories are excluded concerning rental of land, existing buildings or other immovable property, audiovisual and radio programmes, arbitration and conciliation services, legal services, financial services, loans, employment contracts, civil defence, rail and metro transportation services, as well as political campaigns. These exclusions are exactly the same at domestic and EU level and some of them have been included as a result of the suppression of Part B services in the 2014 rules. 

In my view, some of the justifications are easier to support than others. All those concerned with legal services seem quite problematic, though, as there seems to be no clear advantage for the public sector in having unfettered discretion to choose its legal counsel. Similar considerations make the exclusion of financial services dubious. 

Other professional services are covered by the rules in Dir 2014/24 and the PCR2015, which raises the question of which difficulty would there be to choose appropriate providers of legal and financial services under the applicable rules (eg, through a competitive procurement with negotiation with particular requirements in terms of experience and accreditation of the specific members of staff to provide the services, in the case of legal services; or through reverse electronic auctions within a dynamic purchasing system for the provision of financial services, which seems rather close to the liquidity auctions that central banks have been conducting for decades anyway).

In my view (and Pedro's to a large  extent), then, the list of exclusions is excessive and should be pruned. Obviously, one cannot expect the UK to do so unilaterally, particularly in view of the relevance of its legal and financial sectors. However, I would put such a reduction of the list of exclusions in my wishlist for the next round of reform of the EU rules.

New Paper: A critical assessment of the new health care procurement rules in the UK

The recently adopted UK National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 include an interesting (and somehow unsettling) provision authorising anti-competitive behaviour in the commissioning of health care services by the National Health Service (NHS), if that is in the (best) interest of health care users.
As briefly discussed here, generally, it seems that under the new public procurement and competition rules applicable to the NHS, whatever is considered in the “interest of patients” could trump pro-competitive requirements and allow the commissioning entity to engage in distortions of competition (either directly, or by facilitating anti-competitive behaviour by tenderers and service providers)—as long as a sort of qualitative cost-benefit analysis shows that net advantages derived from the anti-competitive procurement activity. The apparent oddity of such general “authorisation” for public buyers to engage in anti-competitive procurement of health care services deserves some careful analysis, which this new paper carries out.

paper assesses Regulation 10 of the NHS Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations 2013 and the substantive guidance published by the UK's health care sector regulator (Monitor) from the perspective of EU economic law (and, more specifically, in connection to public procurement and competition rules). The paper claims that there is a prima facie potential incompatibility between Regulation 10 of the 2013 NHS Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations and both EU competition law and public procurement law—which are, in principle, opposed to any anti-competitive or competition restrictive behaviour in the conduct of public procurement activities. Consequently, there is a need for an EU law compliant, restrictive interpretation and enforcement of the provision—at least where there is a cross border effect on competition and/or a cross border interest in tendering for the health care contracts, which triggers the application of both EU competition law and public procurement law.
Sánchez Graells, Albert, New Rules For Health Care Procurement in the UK. A Critical Assessment from the Perspective of EU Economic Law (February 2, 2014). University of Leicester School of Law Research Paper No. 14-03. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2389719.