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18 January 2001 | David Arminas
European law should give small and medium-sized enterprises a chance to prove their business cases by making members of purchasing consortia tender individually before larger deals take place, a European Parliament sub-committee has heard.
"Being part of a consortium doesn't take away a company's responsibility to advertise and tender contracts," said Tim Williams, managing director of Aberdeen-based public procurement company Tenders Direct.
Williams, a former contracts manager at BP, addressed a public hearing of the European Parliament's legal affairs committee this month in an effort to get a better deal for SMEs when EU directives are revised in March.
He said consortia deals are generally too big to be handled by local SMEs, even though a local firm might be able to give a better deal to a local member.
"We are not trying to stop the growth of consortia, but want to ensure that members know whether consortia contracts deliver value for money," he said.
Williams added that he wanted more resources for the EU to investigate how many authorities comply with the directive on obligatory tendering for contracts worth more than £94,000.
"Many councils are ignorant of the directive and are not tendering. Only 20 to 30 per cent of contracts over £94,000 are being published," he claimed.
Lee Digings, co-author of EC Public Procurement: Law and Practice, said that contracting authorities should use up to 15 per cent of their total annual spend on contracts with SMEs.
The EU council of ministers will approve the revised directives in June. Members will have a year to incorporate them into national law.