Practical considerations for the PEPOS, informally known as Purdah

With the election campaign in full swing, commercial teams will need to be careful about initiating and concluding procurements but balance that with the need to continue with normal business to support delivering public service
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Civil servants, local government staff, and the wider public sector, including procurement and commercial teams, have much to think about now. In addition to preparing their people, processes, and technology for the new regulations, the election comes with a Pre-Election Period of Sensitivity, also known as purdah, which will finish on 4 July.

The purdah conventions are a sensible precaution to maintain impartiality and “avoid any criticism of an inappropriate use of official resources", as the Guidance for Civil Service states.  This means teams will need to be careful about initiating and concluding procurements, particularly for large or contentious contracts, but they must balance that with the need to continue with the normal business to support delivering public service.

The guidance also indicates that decisions on "large and/or contentious commercial contracts, on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government, should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money".

This can lead to overcautiousness and dilemmas. It is not always easy to decide whether an award of a high-value contract should go ahead as simply continuing essential business or whether it should be delayed as potentially contentious and not acceptable in the pre-election period.  Apprehension may create a delay in decision-making and pity both the buyers and the bidders coming to the end of a lengthy procurement process faced with the prospect of a delay before award.

For commercial and procurement teams, the key actions are:

  • Understand what in-flight or scheduled procurements come in scope and remember that smaller and non-contentious work is unaffected.
  • Decide whether to continue with the timetable or delay it, and communicate it quickly to your market/bidders if the decision is to delay.
  • If you need to continue a large procurement, for example, if a delay in award would impact the delivery of essential services, then take advice, document the reasons why a delay is unacceptable, and engage with the appropriate governance to ratify before continuing.
  • Review your post-July 4 work plan carefully, especially if you had scheduled procurements to start before the go-live of the new regulations. You may find that the impact of PEPOS and the holiday period means that more procurements will come under the new regulations that you anticipated. You may need to allocate more resources or make other adjustments to allow for the impact of the changes as your people put into practice the new learning, processes and systems.

Guidance for Civil Service is available online at GENERAL ELECTION GUIDANCE 2024 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

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