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EU looks to make procurement more efficient and sustainable

04 October 2017, 14:49 CET
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EU looks to make procurement more efficient and sustainable

Bienkowska - Katainen - Photo EC

(BRUSSELS) - As part of EU efforts to stimulate the economy and unlock investment, the European Commission put forward Tuesday an initiative for more efficient and sustainable procurement, exploiting digital technologies.

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen said: "we want to unlock the full potential of public procurement in ensuring that the EUR 2 trillion spent yearly in public services and products boost our economy, spur innovation and help meet sustainability goals."

EUR 2 trillion represents some 14 per cent of EU GDP, and the EU executive says that ensuring this taxpayer money is spent efficiently and effectively is of common European interest.

EU public procurement legislation requires all public contracts above a certain threshold to be put out for tender respecting the principles of transparency, equal treatment and non-discrimination.

In 2014 a simplification of the rules meant that rather than award a contract only on the basis of the best price, authorities are encouraged to integrate qualitative criteria, demand innovative, energy saving solutions or insisting on sustainable and socially inclusive approaches.

Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska said: "We encourage public authorities to use public procurement strategically as a tool to obtain better value for taxpayers money and to contribute to a more innovative, sustainable, inclusive and competitive economy."

Today's initiative has four main strands:

  • Definition of priority areas for improvement –Member States are encouraged to develop a strategic approach to procurement policies, focusing on six priorities: greater uptake of innovative, green and social criteria in awarding public contracts; professionalisation of public buyers; improving access by SMEs to procurement markets in the EU and by EU companies in third countries; increasing transparency, integrity and quality of procurement data; digitisation of procurement processes; and more cooperation among public buyers across the EU.
  • Voluntary ex-ante assessment of large infrastructure projects – Complex projects can go wrong right from the beginning if the project managers do not fully grasp the complex rules that apply to large-scale procurement. The Commission will set up a help desk that can answer specific questions at an early stage related to projects with an estimated value over €250 million. For projects of high importance for the Member State concerned or with a total estimated value above €500 million, relevant authorities can ask the Commission to check the complete procurement plan for compatibility with the EU procurement legislation, significantly reducing uncertainties and the risk of delays and legal challenges. The mechanism is voluntary, the Commission's advice is non-binding, and information will be handled subject to strict confidentiality requirements.
  • Recommendation on professionalisation of public buyers – The Commission recommends steps to be taken by Member States to ensure that public buyers have the business skills, technical knowledge and procedural understanding needed to comply with the rules and make sure that taxpayers get the best goods and services for their money. The Commission will facilitate the exchange of good practices and innovative approaches.
  • Consultation on stimulating innovation through public procurement – Today the Commission is launching a targeted consultation to collect feedback from stakeholders on how to stimulate innovation through the procurement of goods and services. Procurement of innovation may concern the outcomes of innovation as well as innovative ways of purchasing. The consultation is open until 31 December and will feed into future guidance for public authorities, addressing issues such as how to set a strategy, organise support for innovation procurement or use innovation-friendly procurement tools.

Public procurement initiative - background guide


Communication: Making public procurement work in and for Europe

EU public procurement legislation

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