Understanding who the contracting authorities are is crucial for businesses supplying goods or services to the public sector. Not only to stay compliant with local laws and regulations, but also for successful strategic planning, risk assessment, and tailored bidding. 

This guide will help you identify these authorities and understand their obligations under the Public Contract Regulations 2015.

What is a Contracting Authority?

In public procurement, a contracting authority refers to any public body that enters into a contract for goods, works, or services. This broad definition covers a diverse range of organisations in the public sector.

It essentially refers to any organisation that receives public funds and needs to purchase goods, services, or construction projects.

Contracting authorities are:

  • Affiliated with the public sector (government agencies, publicly funded organisations, or entities controlled by the government).
  • Responsible for overseeing procurement processes
  • Obliged to conduct procurement in a transparent and fair manner, following legal rules and regulations
  • Accountable for the expenditure of public funds
  • Expected to publish documents related to procurement opportunities, like invitations to bid, requests for proposals (RFPs), or contract award information
  • Required to comply with specific procurement laws and regulations 

Identifying Contracting Authorities

Contracting authorities come in many forms, reflecting the diverse nature of public services in the UK. Here are some examples of the types of bodies that can act as contracting authorities:

  1. Central Government Departments: These include bodies like the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Department for Education.
  2. Local Authorities: This encompasses city, district, borough, and county councils.
  3. NHS Bodies: NHS trusts, NHS Foundation Trusts, and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) all come under this umbrella.
  4. Educational Institutions: Universities, colleges, and academy trusts can also be contracting authorities.
  5. Housing Associations: Often, these bodies are involved in large public contracts.
  6. Utilities Providers: Certain utilities providers, especially those in sectors like water, energy, and transport, can be classed as contracting authorities.
  7. Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs): These are bodies that operate independently of ministerial departments but carry out public functions. Examples include the Environment Agency and the BBC.
  8. Executive Agencies: Bodies like the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Passport Office fall under this category.

Verifying Contracting Authorities

If you’re unsure whether an organisation is a contracting authority, you can take a few steps to confirm:

  1. Check Official Lists: Some lists, like the UK Government’s list of government departments, provide a clear reference. However, not all contracting authorities are listed here.
  2. Examine the Organisation’s Status: Public sector organisations often mention their status on their websites or official documents.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: If you’re still unsure, consider seeking legal advice to avoid potential issues in the future.

Obligations of Contracting Authorities

All these bodies are bound by the Public Contract Regulations 2015 when acting as contracting authorities, which implements the European Union’s directives on public procurement.

This includes adhering to Regulation 113, which mandates 30-day payment terms.

Non-compliance and Late Payment Claims

If a contracting authority fails to meet its obligations, businesses can often make a late payment claim. This process can be complex, but specialist services like can help. We offer an Eligibility Checker to check if you are entitled to compensation and a Claim Calculator to estimate how much you could expect to receive.

Our expert team will navigate the claim process for you, maximising your chances of success and helping you to ensure timely payments from the public sector.

Check out our comprehensive FAQ page for more details on the claims process.

Final Thoughts

Identifying contracting authorities is a crucial first step for any business seeking to work with the public sector. By understanding who these bodies are and their legal obligations, companies can better navigate the public procurement process and ensure they receive adequate compensation for late payments.

Have you received late payments from the public sector? Get in touch to see if you’re eligible for compensation.

Regulation 113 stamp on a folderRegulation 113 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015: What You Need to Know
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