The Cabinet Office has recently issued a policy note which may be relevant to you and your business, as a supplier into the public sector. It is directed at public bodies, however we wanted to ensure our clients were as informed as possible in the current circumstances.
1. This Procurement Policy Note (PPN) sets out information and guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak. Contracting authorities must act now to ensure suppliers at risk are in a position to resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over.
2. All contracting authorities should:
● Urgently review their contract portfolio and inform suppliers who they believe are at risk that they will continue to be paid as normal (even if service delivery is disrupted or temporarily suspended) until at least the end of June.
● Put in place the most appropriate payment measures to support supplier cash flow; this might include a range of approaches such as forward ordering, payment in advance/prepayment, interim payments and payment on order (not receipt).
● If the contract involves payment by results then payment should be on the basis of previous invoices, for example the average monthly payment over the previous three months.
● To qualify, suppliers should agree to act on an open book basis and make cost data available to the contracting authority during this period. They should continue to pay employees and flow down funding to their subcontractors.
● Ensure invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately on receipt (reconciliation can take place in slower time) in order to maintain cash flow in the supply chain and protect jobs.
Dissemination and Scope
3. This PPN is applicable to all contracting authorities, including central government departments, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies, local authorities, NHS bodies and the wider public sector (excluding Devolved Administrations). Together these are referred to in this PPN as ‘contracting authorities’. This PPN covers goods, services and works contracts being delivered in the UK.
4. Please circulate this PPN across your organisation and to other relevant organisations that you are responsible for, drawing it to the specific attention of those with a commercial and finance role.
5. With immediate effect until 30 June 2020.
6. The current outbreak of COVID-19 is unprecedented and will have a significant impact on businesses of all sizes. Many suppliers to public bodies will struggle to meet their contractual obligations and this will put their financial viability, ability to retain staff and their supply chains at risk. Contracting authorities should act now to support suppliers at risk so they are better able to cope with the current crises and to resume normal service delivery and fulfil their contractual obligations when the outbreak is over.
7. It is vital that contracting authorities pay all suppliers as quickly as possible to maintain cash flow and protect jobs. Contracting authorities should also take action to continue to pay suppliers at risk due to COVID-19 on a continuity and retention basis. Contracting authorities can consider making advance payments to suppliers if necessary.
8. Central Government organisations should note that Managing Public Money prohibits payment in advance of need in absence of Treasury consent as this is always novel contentious and repercussive. However, in the circumstances Treasury consent is granted for payments in advance of need where the Accounting Officer is satisfied that a value for money case is made by virtue of securing continuity of supply of critical services in the medium and long term. This consent is capped at 25% of the value of the contract and applies until the end of June 2020. HM Treasury will review in mid-June whether this consent needs to be extended for a further period. Consent for payment in advance of need in excess of this amount should be sought from HMT in the usual way. This consent does not alleviate Accounting Officers their usual duties to ensure that spending is regular, proper and value for money or for other contracting authorities to conduct appropriate and proportionate due diligence to ensure such payments are necessary for continuity of supply of critical services.
9. Contracting authorities should aim to work with suppliers and, if appropriate, provide relief against their current contractual terms (for example relief on KPIs and service credits) to maintain business and service continuity rather than accept claims for other forms of contractual relief, such as force majeure.
10. Continuing to make payments to at risk suppliers will present risks including that, despite these exceptional actions, a supplier may still become insolvent. These risks will need to be managed by contracting authorities on a case by case basis.
11. Further guidance on COVID-19 for individuals, employers and organisations is available on GOV.UK.
12. Enquiries about this PPN should be directed to the helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please see full advice from the government HERE.
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