Q&Gray: Four big questions for Sony Open

first_imgAfter an exciting week (and eventful finish) to the year’s first event, the PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for the Sony Open. It’s time to head to Oahu and Waialae Country Club, which has hosted the tournament for all 55 years of its existence. For many players this marks the first start of the new year, while some decorated holdovers will make the short trip from Maui. With topics ranging from a red-hot winner to slumping veterans and one particular course horse, here are four questions to ponder as the Aloha swing continues: Golf Central JT betting favorite to complete Hawaiian double BY Will Gray  — January 7, 2020 at 1:52 PM Fresh off his playoff win at Kapalua, Justin Thomas is listed as the betting favorite this week at the Sony Open as the PGA Tour stays in Hawaii. What can JT do for an encore? Three years ago Justin Thomas captured the Sentry Tournament of Champions, hopped a short flight to Oahu and put an opening-round 59 on the board at Sony. It was the start of what turned into a career year, complete with five wins including a major. This time around, Thomas returns to Honolulu after surviving a chaotic playoff at Kapalua for his third win in his last seven starts. His form may not be quite as red-hot as it was back in 2017, but it’s probably not that far off, either. Another strong performance would only further stamp Thomas’ name as one to watch as the new year gets underway – even if he doesn’t break 60 this time around. Getty Images Did this week’s winner play last week? There might not be two Tour venues more disparate than Kapalua and Waialae: one is a sprawling, hilly landscape where drives can push 400 yards while the other is a cozy, flat layout where players can almost leave the driver at home. But there’s been a significant correlation in recent years as each of the last six winners of the Sony Open started their year the week before at Kapalua. It’s not exactly a fair fight, given that a spot at the Sentry means you played well enough to win an event the previous year, but it’s something to keep an eye on as 21 of the 34 players from last week are in the Sony field. The last time the trophy went to a player who wasn’t in Maui the week prior? That would be 2013, when Russell Henley won in his first start as a rookie. Sony Open in Hawaii: Full-field tee times | Full coverage Getty Images Can two former champs get back on track? Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker have several traits in common. They’re both former major champs, both north of 40 years old and both former winners at the Sony: Johnson in 2009, while Walker went back-to-back in 2014-15. But the two also return to Hawaii in the midst of similar slides, as they both missed the FedExCup playoffs entirely last season. Johnson has fallen outside the top 200 in the world and is more than a year removed from his last top-10 finish, while Walker hasn’t completed 72 holes since the Rocket Mortgage Classic in June and will be making his first start since the Sanderson Farms Championship nearly four months ago. Getty Images Is this the year CH III gets over the hump? Charles Howell III has had success at Waialae. A ton of success, actually: 10 top-10 finishes in 18 prior appearances, with only one over-par round since 2012. It’s a set of credentials that could set him up to run for mayor of Honolulu down the road, but there’s a conspicuous asterisk involved: despite his affinity for the venue, Howell has not yet won the event, coming closest in 2012 when he tied for second. Consistent play not translating into victories is nothing new for Howell, who hasn’t played since a missed cut in defense of his RSM Classic title. But he would love nothing more than to finally get his name on the trophy after feasting on Waialae for nearly 20 years, and coming off a fall that included four top-20 finishes there’s ample reason to think this might (finally) be his week.last_img read more

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Pokemon Go legislation puts ESA in a tight spot

first_img 4 years ago “Will the industry side with sex offenders….” Just about stopped reading there as the answer should be pretty obvious to everyone. Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aleksi Ranta on 9th August 2016 8:43am 2Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyShow all comments (7)Barry Meade , Fireproof Studios Ltd.4 years ago Even if it passes, which it won’t, this legislation is dumb as rocks. The potential crimes it may help avoid are so infinitesimally small in number, the law is clearly a strawman whipped up by politicians to make themselves look busy and relevant. 3Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyKlaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyAleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager Pokemon Go legislation puts ESA in a tight spotWill the industry side with sex offenders or risk legislators hobbling a new market just as it gets going?Brendan SinclairManaging EditorMonday 8th August 2016Share this article Recommend Tweet ShareCompanies in this articleThe ESAWhen it comes to fighting attempts at video game legislation, the ESA has traditionally chosen pragmatism over principles.It went tooth-and-nail against California all the way to the Supreme Court to prevent the state from curtailing sales of violent games to children, because the industry makes violent games and people buy them. But when Louisiana passed a law in 2006 banning the sale or distribution of sexually explicit games to minors, the ESA let it pass uncontested; it’s not like any of its members were making sexually explicit games anyway.And in 2008, when the state of New York passed a law requiring consoles to support parental lockout features and establishing an advisory council to examine connections between games and real-life violence in minors, the ESA called it wasteful and unconstitutional, but didn’t challenge it in court. After all, the big hardware makers at the time already had parental controls in place, so it wasn’t going to ruin anyone’s bottom line. (To give an idea of how much of a non-issue it was, when someone finally broke the law, almost nobody noticed or cared. The Ouya originally launched in New York without parental controls.)In short, if a law doesn’t affect business, the ESA won’t raise much of a fuss. But once politicians start messing with its members’ bread and butter, the ESA will get as litigious as it needs to.”As is typical for legislation targeting games, these bills were clearly drafted by people who don’t quite get the nuances of the field.” That’s what makes this week’s news about a pair of Pokemon Go-inspired bills in the New York State Senate so interesting. One of them would ban registered sex offenders from playing augmented reality games. The other would require companies that operate AR games to ensure they aren’t placing in-game objectives around registered sex offenders’ residences.As is typical for legislation targeting games, these bills were clearly drafted by people who don’t quite get the nuances of the field. For one thing, they purport to limit AR games, but the legal definition they give for what constitutes an AR game actually describes location-based gaming: “a digital application or game, typically accessed on mobile devices, including but not limited to: smartphones; tablets; or augmented reality glasses; which causes users to physically move to and/or personally interact with locations outside the user’s place of residence for the purpose of achieving goals or moving from place to place within the game.”So the things we’ve generally thought of as AR–HoloLens, CastAR, that 3DS Face Invaders game that came with the system–don’t count. But depending on how liberally you parse that definition, using Google Maps to achieve the goal of getting to the grocery store could conceivably make it an AR application.But even if the ESA can poke holes in the legislators’ choice of terminology, fighting the bills would be a PR nightmare for the industry. Taking the side of child molesters and rapists against concerned parents is pretty much a non-starter. But letting the bills go through unchallenged could have more significant drawbacks because in both the games industry and politics, success breeds imitators. (Even when it shouldn’t.) Just as other developers will see the potential in augmented reality/geolocation games and ready their own knock-offs, so too will politicians in other states and countries see that protecting kids from sexual predators is a slam dunk issue and draft their own equivalent bills. The 2005 California law that went to the Supreme Court was part of one such wave of legislation, with Louisiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Illinois, Utah, Maryland, Indiana, Washington, and Missouri all attempting to pass their own restrictions on the sales of violent games to children.”It’s one thing to culturalize game content for an entire country/culture, but it’s another to manage expectations at a very local level.” Kate EdwardsIn the case of New York’s Pokemon Go bills, the developer of an augmented reality game would be required to make sure no in-game items or objectives are placed within 100 feet of a registered sex offender’s residence. They would also have to update their list of forbidden addresses every month to ensure it’s using the most current information, or face fines of $100 per day per sex offender residence with an in-game item. It may sound like a reasonable burden to place on Niantic, but that burden becomes significantly heavier when every locality with its own registry adopts its own laws that may require different sized safe zones around each address, different requirements on how frequently the list must be updated, and different methods for the developer to access the addresses in question, which could be stored in a variety of different formats. Back when she worked at Microsoft, Kate Edwards was the company’s senior geopolitical strategist, responsible for ensuring that the company’s products were altered on a region-by-region basis to ensure they wouldn’t inadvertently run afoul of local norms. Now executive director of the International Game Developers Association, Edwards compared her previous work to the challenge of complying with a multitude of laws like the one proposed in New York.”On a global scale, it’s potentially daunting for game developers to manage geopolitical and cultural restrictions and policies,” she told GamesIndustry.biz. “But in reality, we’ve already been doing that for decades via the culturalization process, ensuring that the content of games is culturally compatible with certain locales. But the extra burden imposed by AR is the severe locality of the experience and having to account for many specific potential issues. It’s one thing to culturalize game content for an entire country/culture, but it’s another to manage expectations at a very local level.””The legislation that is being proposed by New York has the potential to severely curtail or even kill off a vast, emerging industry…” Kate EdwardsAnd this is what could put the ESA in a pinch. As if making something like Pokemon Go weren’t expensive and logistically challenging enough already, if the New York bill spawns imitators–and again, there’s little reason to think it wouldn’t–the entire field could be hamstrung. Location-based AR games, particularly free-to-play ones like Pokemon Go, are almost inherently global propositions. New York is one state of 50 in one country. Pokemon Go is already available in more than 50 countries. And sex offenders are just one possible reason a government would want spawn-free zones in those games.”The legislation that is being proposed by New York has the potential to severely curtail or even kill off a vast, emerging industry, especially for smaller AR developers who may not have the legal and/or financial resources of Niantic,” Edwards said. “While the concerns of the state of New York are understandable and valid, the reality is that current legal regimes are not equipped to appropriately account for how virtual spaces interact with real spaces.Related JobsSenior Game Designer – UE4 – AAA United Kingdom Amiqus GamesProgrammer – REMOTE – work with industry veterans! North West Amiqus GamesJunior Video Editor – GLOBAL publisher United Kingdom Amiqus GamesDiscover more jobs in games “We don’t even have effective laws that manage the difference between online harassment and in-person harassment, and this is just one example of an issue that should take precedence over AR. Thus, before making a knee-jerk response to a single AR game experience, we’d strongly prefer that governments work together with the game industry and affected organizations to make a much broader examination of this issue and its long-term implications.”One idea Edwards wanted considered was a centralized data portal through which organizations–be they the New York Department of Corrections, churches, or caretakers for memorials–could submit locations for location-based AR games to avoid, and from which developers could pull the most up-to-date information for wherever they run their games.We reached out to the Entertainment Software Association to find out its position on the New York bills last week. They have yet to provide a comment. Niantic also has yet to respond to a request for comment.Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry8th July 2021Submit your company Sign up for The VR & AR newsletter and get the best of GamesIndustry.biz in your inbox. Enter your email addressMore storiesESA commits $1 million to support Black Girls CodeThe multi-year venture will support education and mentoring programs for girls and young womenBy Eric Van Allen 2 months agoReggie Fils-Aimé on E3: “If the ESA doesn’t figure out how to do this, someone else will”Playable content is “key to a successful E3,” the former Nintendo exec saidBy Marie Dealessandri 2 months agoLatest comments (7)Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 0Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyCamden Studying Computer Science, University of Phoenix4 years ago Klaus, the individual you state was “famously charged” was not in fact arrested nor charged at all. In no way has someone who has been breastfeeding been placed on a sex offender registry. That article (and others) clearly state that breastfeeding in public is protected almost universally in the USA.Brendan wrote this article clearly detailing the issue that the ESA faces in challenging the law: public perception of the defense of sexual predators. The ESA must balance defending developers from an unreasonable burden while avoiding the appearance of defending sexual predators (which, yes, also accompanies other offenders which are not violent).It’s a question of can this argument be made without muddying the waters regarding the registry effectiveness. 4 years ago I didnt know you can get registered as a sex offender for breastfeeding in the states. Care to back that up Klaus?http://www.sexcrimecriminaldefense.com/registered-sex-offender/Those Tiers seem pretty clear and not to be taken lightly. 2Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyKlaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago If there were a way to specifically exclude sex offenders homes from applications like this, it would be equally possible to create an app that would TARGET sex offenders as well. There’s your scary invasion of privacy moment of the day. 4 years ago With the war on drugs and the war on terrorism not performing as strong, sex offenders are the last bogeymen that have not declared a war against them. We are off to a good start, this article did not bother with the nuance of sexual offenses that get you registered in the U.S., it skipped right to the worst imaginable sex offenses to make the proposed legislation seem more justified and the odds of fighting it hopeless.It is worth remembering, that for the most part we are not talking about raping people up the nose to death, but about unsolicited hugs between kindergartners, indecent exposure (e.g. breastfeeding), peeing in public, having consensual sex as a teenagers, and more. Never forget that in Britain, you can be sentenced to having to register all your sexual encounters including name, address and age with the police 24h in advance. A regulation restricted only to be used after having found NOT guilty in a sex offender trail.Pick a side now. Reasonable adult behavior, or childlike fear-mongering for personal gains? 4 years ago This woman was famously charged:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2074363/Breastfeeding-mom-accused-indecent-exposure-says-treated-like-criminal.htmlmost states have special exemptions, which says a lot in its own right. Definitely sends the message of not pushing your luck in some parts of the U.S. That and the judge’s quote.The three tiers consist almost exclusively of offenses which cannot be argued with. But take a close look at the first item of each tier. This is the part of the system you can basically weaponize to enforce much harder social norms due to the vagueness of terms and their local interpretation. Think of basically any spring break party ever. The setup is eerily similar to how non-violent marijuana offenders were bunched together with far worse things. It is all about the entry level. 0Sign inorRegisterto rate and replyJordan Lund Columnist 0Sign inorRegisterto rate and replySign in to contributeEmail addressPasswordSign in Need an account? Register now.last_img read more

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State cancels RFP for major IT project where CGI was the only bidder

first_imgby Morgan True vtdigger.org Negotiations for a second massive information technology project with the tech giant CGI officially fell through last week, state officials said. Vermont canceled its request for bids on the Integrated Eligibility ‘IE’ Solution Project on January 24. The project is meant to provide tracking and eligibility systems across programs administered by the Agency of Human Services.CGI was the only company to bid on the contract, said Doug Racine, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, and the state felt it needed more options.‘This is a big project and we need to explore our options to make sure we get the best vendor possible,’ he said.Racine said CGI’s poor work performance on the state’s health care exchange website was a factor in the decision to cancel and reissue the request for bids.The IE solutions project is much larger than building the IT systems for the exchange, and estimates of that contract’s value range as high as $100 million.VTDigger initially reported that negotiations with CGI stalled in December, amid ongoing frustration over the company’s spotty work on the Vermont Health Connect website.Vermont has paid CGI $19.3 million of the $83.7 million total for the exchange contract, said Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.Larson said he expects CGI to complete the work set out in its contract, but left open the possibility that the agreement could be amended.Vermont has collected the maximum $5.1 million in penalties for missed deadlines allowed by the contract. It’s unclear what might happen if CGI walked away from the contract without completing the work.CGI has ‘demonstrated the intent’ to complete the work demanded by its current contract, Larson said.‘CGI remains fully committed to delivering the robust functionality desired for Vermonters by Vermont Health Connect, using the most qualified staff needed to accomplish the work,’ a company spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.Larson does not have any ‘specific concerns at this time’ about CGI’s staffing level for the team working on Vermont Health Connect, he said.‘I know that they continue to rotate staff, and we have conversations about their staff rotations on a regular basis,’ he said.CGI’s contract is broken down into four categories that include design development and implementation of the exchange site, worth $32 million of which $5.7 million has been paid; premium processing, worth $2.6 million of which $448,000 has been paid; integrating the exchange site with other agency information systems, worth $18.8 million of which $3.7 million has been paid; and ongoing maintenance and operation of the site, worth $30 million of which $9.4 million has been paid.Vermont has the option to extend the ongoing maintenance and operation portion for an additional two years beyond what is covered by the current contract, Larson said.The exchange website lacks critical functionalities: small business employers cannot yet use it; users cannot make changes to applications, and the online payment feature still does not work.Part of the reason the state needed to cancel its request for bids on the IE solutions project was to ensure the work CGI is doing to integrate the Vermont Health Connect with the Agency of Human Services other systems isn’t duplicated, said Richard Boes, commissioner of the Department of Information and Innovation, which has an oversight role for large technology contracts.Overhauling ACCESS, the state’s legacy IBM mainframe operating system created in the early 1980s, is still a priority, Racine said, but since the original RFP went out in November 2012, his agency has expanded its vision for what services the system would integrate.Currently, the system doesn’t allow food stamps, fuel assistance and Medicaid to share information. This project would integrate those programs, he said.‘What we’re trying to get to is better case management,’ Racine said.The revised RFP for the project is expected to be released in March.last_img read more

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Bar LRS now covering Miami-Dade

first_img October 15, 2008 Regular News Bar LRS now covering Miami-Dade Bar LRS now covering Miami-Dadecenter_img The Bar’s Lawyer Referral Service has added Miami-Dade County to its coverage area.The Bar’s LRS will start making referrals in Miami-Dade County beginning October 1, which coincides with the publishing of the new phone books, according to Karen Kelly, director of the Bar’s public service programs.Kelly also invites Miami-Dade lawyers to join the Bar’s LRS. The service refers callers to an attorney in their county who practices the type of law requested.More than 1,200 attorneys participate in the lawyer referral service program statewide. Florida Bar members in good standing who have an office in a county covered by the Bar referral service are eligible to join the service by completing an application and submitting a $125 membership fee. The attorney must also carry at least $100,000 in professional liability insurance.Prospective clients may reach the service by calling (800) 342-8011 from anywhere in Florida or visiting www.floridabar.org.last_img read more

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October 1, 2010 Letters

first_img October 1, 2010 Letters October 1, 2010 Letters Letters Law and Medicine I read with interest the plan by Florida State University to publish an e-journal to increase the flow of information between the law and medicine. As someone who practiced medicine for several years before obtaining my law degree, I feel qualified to respond. My opinions relate solely to the legal practice of medical malpractice.The standard of care the law applies to physicians bears little resemblance to the standard with which they practice medicine. Upon prescribing medical treatment, the physician must ask, “Is there scientific proof that the treatment prescribed is effective?” This represents evidence-based medicine and stems from the peer-reviewed, scientific method.Unfortunately, the legal standard all too often reflects an expert’s own opinion devoid of any scientific basis. That opinion is purposefully framed in a persuasive manner to support the retaining party, which often encourages intellectually dishonest testimony. While judges have leeway under rules of evidence to exclude such testimony, few actually do as they lack the medical knowledge to honestly evaluate that testimony, which becomes a matter of fact.Of course, few med/mal cases are ever tried. Physicians thus throw up their hands in disgust, left alone to ponder how the law, supposedly about truth and justice, could support a system so flawed.These issues run much deeper, however, and strike at the core of honest and ethical representation of the physician.I see attorneys purposefully not filing dispositive motions on behalf of their physician-client for fear they might succeed, which dries up that revenue stream. I know of senior attorneys informing junior associates not to file motions for summary judgment for fear they may win. I am aware of a number of attorneys and even risk-management teams who refuse to cooperate, purely for financial reasons, with physicians who pursue proactive methods proven to reduce non-meritorious claims. They want those lawsuits as they represent billable hours. I point no fingers, as this simply “is.”The annual Gallup poll on Honesty/Ethics in Professions, in November 2009, found 65 percent of respondents rated physicians as either “very high” or “high.” Contrast that to only 13 percent for the legal profession. No doubt, the actions mentioned above contributed to those numbers. Why, as attorneys, do we do so little to correct this grave problem?A Harvard study found that 54 percent of monies awarded patients injured by negligence went to “administrative” costs, including attorney’s fees. The gross inefficiency of the system is unnecessary and is easily improved, if only the desire existed. This would benefit injured patients and help avoid costly and time-consuming frivolous claims and the resultant personal turmoil caused innocent physicians.I would challenge not only the FSU e-journal to explore these issues, but The Florida Bar to engage and work with the many national medical societies who have adopted expert witness guidelines to ensure those guidelines promote fair, honest, and ethical testimony.I lose little sleep that the public holds the law with such distain or that the law promotes such intellectual dishonestly when it comes to medical malpractice. I am greatly troubled, however, by the fact that so few attorneys seem to care. I pray for the legal profession that I am wrong.Robert W. Patton Clearwater Bar’s Website The Florida Bar has an alleged website. Allegedly, members and the general public can access that website for the purpose of finding a lawyer, checking on a lawyer, getting information regarding CLE, unauthorized practice of law, legal research on Fastcase, etc. It is, in fact, nearly impossible to gain any meaningful access to The Florida Bar website. It is without a doubt the most incompetently designed and maintained website I’ve ever tried to use.In the first place, it is unbelievably slow if and when it works at all. Usually it doesn’t work at all. Usually one gets the home page and nothing more. Sometimes, if you exit and try again, it will move on to the page you want, but more usually it doesn’t.In this “information age” in which we live and work, the Internet, and the ability to access it quickly and efficiently, is an indispensable fact of life. Businesses and organizations routinely operate good, useful, and valuable websites without any significant difficulty. Why is The Florida Bar’s website useless and worthless? Computer hardware and software have advanced to the point where top-flight systems can be obtained with great economy. We do not have to put up with a last-class website that does not work.Be assured that I am not alone in my criticism. Every lawyer I’ve spoken to who has tried to use The Florida Bar website has expressed the same thought. I suggest that the Bar assess its website with an eye to building one that we can use and be proud of.William E. Lowe Bradenton Editor’s Note: The Bar’s website is designed for optimum usability with Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers. Based on user statistics, 96 percent of visitors access the site with these browsers. Other proprietary browsers create issues for users because they use a copy of the site from past visits rather than loading the live site. The Florida Bar is continuously working to improve its website and recently completed a major study involving hundreds of Bar members providing input and suggestions. The study recommendations are now being applied. Monthly, the site has more than 16.7 million hits and in the latest Bar Membership Opinion survey, 91 percent of Bar members said the site was average or above average in terms of its content and ease of use compared to other legal websites. Foreclosure I write from the frustrating foreclosure trenches of Palm Beach County to challenge the assumption that clearing the backlog of foreclosures is necessarily a good idea.The untested, unproven underlying assumption behind throwing millions of dollars at our court system to reduce the foreclosure backlog is that the sooner we clear ’em out, the sooner the houses can get back on the market; and although it might be bad at first, we can climb out of the hole that much quicker if we just get ’er done.This assumption is plain horse hockey. I don’t see it as my taxpayer civic duty to provide a clearinghouse beyond the norm for banks and speculative lenders, many of whom were downright deceptive and dishonest in how they generated all this hoopla in the first place.I’m not saying the lenders don’t get to have keys to the courthouse. I just don’t believe we need to make them their own special keys and give them their own office space and support system for free and over and above the legitimate needs of everyone else. It’s not just a dollars-and-cents issue either: Why should rapists, muggers, and less palatable crooks have to wait whilst we bend over backwards to help these lenders?I say horse hockey, because if the banks suddenly had control of more than 63,000 homes (the foreclosure backlog) in this county — just in time for Christmas — any recovery/stabilization of the housing market we’ve seen to date will crater with no end in sight. Additionally, right now some banks, seeing that they can’t just come in and throw a family into the street, have to deal with families. There is a business decision to be made that allows families to work it out with the lenders when the lenders know they have to otherwise wait a good long time.I say horse hockey, because the banks don’t really want these properties. The September 1 News touched on that, but only in passing. These banks don’t do anything to take care of the properties they get, and they stiff condo and homeowners’ associations every chance they get. Go ahead, try to sue them; you’ll wait a long time, since all our resources are going to do their dirty work.What we really need is to take both a liberal and a conservative attitude to this mess: Liberal, in that we need the courts to remember that foreclosure is a matter of equity and the homeowner should be protected as broadly as possible; conservative, in that most all government involvement should cease. That is, using nothing other than the common law and equity, the courts should simply be letting the parties work out full and fair common sense business solutions. As it is, even in court-ordered mediation, our hands are tied.For example, if a property is worth $200,000 and the loan is $300,000, and if next year that same property is going to be worth only $100,000, then let the parties agree to cut their losses and move on. Not fair to the banks? Then make the banks tell us how much of these losses were bailed out on.I know some people will react negatively to what I’m saying (can’t let deadbeats be rewarded), but we need to practice a bit of forgiveness and there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mentality. It does not matter what happened, why it happened, or who is to blame anymore. Foreclosures themselves are the problem. Putting people into the streets is going to be a bigger problem. Let’s simply cut our losses. Work it out. Live and let live.Tim Morell Boynton Beachlast_img read more

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Public sector procurement: Small fish in a big pond

first_imgThe European Commission’s mission to modernise and simplify procurement directives and to open up contracts to SME contractors culminated in the adoption of three new directives on 17 April 2014. These cover public sector contracts, concession contracts, and contracts procured by utility companies. Member states have until 18 April 2016 to transpose these into national law. The UK saw publication in September of draft public contract regulations for consultation. These are expected to come into force early in 2015. The draft regulations apply to all public sector bodies including schools, academy trusts, housing associations and clincial commissioning groups (CCGs). Part four of the regulations introduces rules that apply purely at the UK level to below-threshold contracts: £4.32m for works, and £111,676 or £172,514 for services and supplies, respectively for central government and local authority. These are intended to implement Lord Young’s 2013 proposals to open up more contracts to smaller businesses. They introduce a requirement for central government to advertise contracts of £10,000 or more on the government’s Contracts Finder website. Local authorities and housing associations must also do so for contracts of £25,000 or more. Schools and academies are exempt from this, as are certain NHS procurements. More light is thrown on the thorny question of when an authority can vary a contractIn each case, the advertising requirement only applies if the contract opportunity is put into the public domain, which leaves open the possibility of a behind closed doors deal or a framework call-off. The Contracts Finder advert must clearly specify the time limits to respond, how to respond and any other conditions for participation. The use of pre-qualification questionnaires for such contracts will be banned. Any questions about credentials or suitability to bid must in future be relevant to the subject matter of the contract and proportionate. The Cabinet Office intends to issue more detailed mandatory guidance to further shape best practice, particularly around issues like minimum financial standing and legal status. Authorities must explain any deviation from the rules by written report to the Cabinet Office. Regulation 112 introduces a statutory requirement for public authorities to write into the contract an obligation to pay contractors within 30 days of a valid and undisputed invoice. If they fail to do so, the terms will become implied terms. To help with arguments about whether an invoice is “undisputed and valid” the rules state that invoices must be “considered and verified by the contracting authority in timely fashion”. Undue delay is not regarded as justification for delay in payment.Leaving aside the purely domestic regime for below-threshold procurements, the new rules introduce several other important changes:The time limits for requests to participate and return tenders are shortened by a third in most cases and may be shortened further where e-portals are used. Authorities must move towards full electronic communication by 2018.There is explicit clarification that social and environmental benefits can be considered during evaluation. More emphasis will be placed on “whole life costing” so exit costs, ongoing maintenance liabilities and environmental costs are taken into account.The distinction between Part A and Part B services (mainly social, healthcare educational and cultural services) will go; instead a new “light touch” regime is introduced for contracts in these sectors that exceed €750,000 in value (about £630,000). (Below this, the new domestic rules on transparency explained above may still apply). There is a power to reserve certain types of contract to social enterprises and mutuals, provided strict criteria are satisfied. Commercial providers will need to be alert to any abuse of this.The formerly tarnished “negotiated procedure”, which the European Commission believed was often manipulated to anti-competitive effect, has a new lease of life as the “competitive procedure with negotiation”. The circumstances in which it, and its cousin the “competitive dialogue procedure”, can be used are widened. An “innovation partnership” procedure is introduced to encourage development of new solutions.There are new safeguards against corruption, collusion and managing conflicts of interest – in particular, where authority staff may have a vested interest in the procurement outcome.Market engagement and consultation prior to formal tenders is encouraged.More light is thrown on the thorny question of when an authority can vary a contract without having to re-run the competition. A de minimis limit of 10% (15% for works contracts) is introduced, with clarification of the ability to switch supplier in the case of insolvency or corporate restructuring.Many of the reforms are welcome clarifications of principles already developed by case law. The changes to procedures, particularly the new domestic rules for “below threshold” contracts and 30-day time limits for payments will require authorities to adjust systems and processes in readiness. Contractors and service providers should be alert to their new rights. Mark Johnson is a partner at public services law firm Geldardslast_img read more

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