EU launches e-procurement standardisation strategy

2 August 2011

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2 August 2011 | Angeline Albert

A plan to create uniform e-procurement processes across the EU has won “considerable support”, the European Commission (EC) has said.

Publishing the responses to its e-procurement consultation, the EC found 53 per cent were in favour of making standardised e-procurement mandatory at an EU level, while 42 per cent were opposed to the idea. The remainder did not choose either option.  

In a statement, the EC said: “There is broad support for EU-level action, including the use of legislation, to facilitate the use of standardised e-procurement solutions. A small majority of respondents support the imposition of EU-level requirements to use e-procurement.”

The publication of the 77 responses to the consultation, which ran from October 2010 until 31January this year, also revealed that almost 60 per cent who submitted comments consider “overcoming inertia and fear” to be the biggest barrier to the take-up of e-procurement and to cross-border participation in online buying. Other barriers were the “lack of standards” and “onerous technical requirements”.

The EC is now calling for e-procurement specialists to join an expert group on e-tendering. It hopes that by bringing together experts in the design and implementation of e-purchasing systems, it can develop a blueprint for common solutions for the electronic submission of offers by the end of 2012. The deadline for applications is 30 September.

The EC will also start to monitor the use of e-purchasing across member states to promote good practice. It is currently tendering for an organisation to carry out such a study. The commission believes a lack of information on e-procurement development hampers its adoption, and hopes the research will help policy-makers at EU and national governments assess progress in this area.

“In five to 10 years’ time, most public procurement administrations will be electronic. We have to start preparing for that change now,” said Michel Barnier, EU commissioner for Internal Market and Services, who is responsible for driving the commission's initiatives in financial services, public procurement, free movement of services, intellectual property and professional qualifications. “At EU level, we have to ensure that the legal and policy environment supports the switchover. The groundwork that I am launching is another important step towards harnessing the power of technology for better procurement.”

* Meanwhile, in response to EU plans to modernise public buying rules, the Cabinet Office has said the UK government strongly agrees with the commission’s comment on the need for streamlined and flexible procurement procedures. But it warned that the consultation covers many topical issues and “there is a significant danger that, in attempting to address so many, complexity will be added to the rules, which would be the opposite of the overall aim of simplification”.

The UK government is pressing for greater clarity on what can be regarded as “relevant to the subject matter of the contract” in order to reduce burdens and risk by providing greater legal certainty for purchasers.  

It also said revisions to EU public purchasing policy should focus on reducing “lengthy and burdensome” buying processes that add cost to business, provide more flexibility for purchasers to follow best practice and aid access to public procurement by small and medium-sized businesses (if non-discriminatory and consistent with a value-for-money approach).

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