On 24 May 2023, Wales’ first piece of primary legislation on public procurement received royal assent – the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Act (the Act). The object of the Act is to improve social responsibility and well-being in public procurement through “social partnership” working.
Key provisions include:
- Imposing a “socially responsible procurement duty” on contracting authorities, which requires them to “seek to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of its area by carrying out public procurement in a socially responsible way”. “Social responsibility”, in this context, means contributing to the seven “wellbeing goals” prescribed by section 4 of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. There are additional, more detailed obligations imposed on the procurement of major construction projects and outsourcing services contracts.
- Establishing a Social Partnership Council for Wales, which will (among other matters) advise Welsh ministers on “social partnership duties” and socially responsible procurement.
- Creating an obligation on contracting authorities to publish a procurement strategy, which (among other matters) should record how the authority intends to carry out its procurement in a socially responsible way.
The Act is reflective of increasing moves by policy makers in recent years to utilise public procurement as a policy tool, including in the pursuit a wider sustainability and social policy objectives.
Any organisation which competes for public contracts in Wales will be affected by the implementation of the Act and should monitor the approach of different Welsh authorities to social responsibility in procurement.