EU to modernise public procurement

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The European Commission has set out plans to modernise public procurement within the European Union saying it had become a priority in view of current budgetary constraints.

Some 18 per cent of the EU’s gross domestic product is spent by public authorities on goods, services and works.

Michel Barnier, Commissioner responsible for the internal market and services, said: “I would like to make sure that the public procurement Directives become simpler and more effective and that they make life easier for those whose daily work involves public procurement. As for the proposed Directive on concessions, it represents the completion of the single market for public procurement and will, I hope, allow substantial gains in terms of the efficiency of public expenditure and economic growth in the years to come.”

Proposals include:

* the possibility of increased recourse to negotiation, thus enabling the contracting authorities to purchase goods and services which are better tailored to their needs at the best price;

* the extension and, in the medium term, generalisation of electronic communication in public procurement, since it offers an essential means of simplifying public tendering;

* a drastic cut in the administrative burden, including the number of documents required from economic operators, thereby making their lives easier.

* Encourage access to public procurement for SMEs: access will be increased and made easier through measures to cut the administrative burden and strong incentives to divide tenders into lots and limit the financial capacity requirements for the submission of a tender.

* At the same time, the proposed reform aims to facilitate a qualitative improvement in the use of public procurement by ensuring greater consideration for social and environmental criteria such as life-cycle costs or the integration of vulnerable and disadvantaged persons, thereby helping to achieve the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The proposed Directive on concessions covers the partnership agreements between a body which is generally public and a business which is often private, where the latter assumes the operative risk linked to maintenance and development of infrastructures (ports, water distribution, car parks, toll roads, etc.) or to the supply of services of general economic interest (energy, health, water supply and treatment, waste disposal, etc).

The Commission proposes the obligatory publication of concessions in the Official Journal of the European Union. It also proposes specifying the obligations of the contracting authorities as regards the choice of selection and award criteria, imposing certain basic guarantees which should be respected during the award procedure and extending the benefits of the Remedies Directive regarding public procurement to any person interested in obtaining a concession, as well as adopting certain clarifications on, for example, the concession amendments currently under way.

The Commission hopes that the proposals will be adopted before the end of 2012. The UK government Cabinet Office said comments received by 20 January 2012 would be helpful in advance of the start of the actual negotiations.

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