'Standstill' period to be harmonised in Europe

26 June 2007

27 June 2007 | Antony Barton

The European Parliament has agreed to change public procurement rules to boost the rights of rejected bidders across Europe.

Accord was reached at the first reading of a directive to revise two existing Public Procurement Remedies Directives, which were introduced in the UK in January last year.

The new directive will require contracting authorities to wait at least 10 days between selecting a successful bidder and signing the contract. This will give unsuccessful bidders time to examine the decision and consider whether to make a complaint. Failure to respect the "standstill" period will lead to national courts rendering the contract invalid.

The UK currently uses a period of 10 days, but other European countries have a varying number of days or no standstill at all.

The directive also addresses illegal direct awards of public contracts, where there is no competitive tendering. National courts will be able to render such awards invalid and the contract will need to be tendered again. There is scope for alternative measures in exceptional circumstances.

Charlie McCreevy, the internal market and services commissioner, said effective procedures for seeking review were essential to ensure public contracts are awarded to the company that has made the best offer. He added: "I believe that by strengthening national review procedures in line with this directive, businesses will have stronger incentives to bid for contracts anywhere in the EU."

The directive should now be adopted by the Council of Ministers and published in the EU's Official Journal later this year. Member states will then need to incorporate the directive into national law within 24 months.

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