24 July 2006 | Paul Snell
The European Commission (EC) today released guidance for public-sector buyers on the award of low-value contracts.
The document reminds purchasers that deals below the threshold for EU public procurement rules must still be transparent, fair and non-discriminatory. The EC says this means applying a "degree of advertising sufficient to enable the services market to be opened up to competition and the impartiality of the procedures to be reviewed".
Organisations infringing these rules could be hauled before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and contracts could be challenged or cancelled.
The guidance is available at ec.europa.eu
The EC hopes better advertising of low-value contracts will increase opportunities for companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.
The guidance follows an ECJ judgement which ruled in 2000 that Telaustria had breached the principles of transparency and non-discrimination by failing to advertise a contract. Cases from Finland, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands have since been referred to the ECJ.
EU public procurement rules cover deals for services and supplies above a threshold of ?211,000 (£143,704). But complaints from suppliers wanting to bid for low-value work led to challenges in the ECJ.
There was some concern that the EC might decide to lower the threshold for the mandatory advertising of all deals to 10 per cent of the threshold, as suggested in an unpublished draft EC document seen by SM
(News, 8 June
However, the document says the EC will "assess the internal market relevance of the contract in question in the light of the circumstances of each case" and will open proceedings depending on the importance of the contract and potential impact of the breach of principles.