11 January 2011 | Angeline Albert
Changes to European Union (EU) procurement rules
have raised costs and hampered effective purchasing, according to a survey of
public sector buyers published this week.
A total of 141 procurement
officers from councils in England and Wales responded to an online survey by the Local Government Association.
Only 36 per cent said the
EU’s Remedies Directive has led to more efficient and effective procurement
The directive highlights steps suppliers can take to challenge the award
of a public contract. A key change is the remedy of
“ineffectiveness”, which gives courts the power to scrap a contract if it has
not been advertised, the standstill period has been ignored or if the rules
governing a framework agreement have been broken.
Two thirds of buyers said procurement costs and administrative burdens
had increased as a result of the directive, while 54 per cent felt the purchasing
process had become more complicated.
And 69 per cent of buyers
said dealing with challenges from unsuccessful bidders – following the
directive’s introduction in December 2009 – hindered councils’ procurement
The new directive had also
scuppered councils’ attempts to overcome cuts in funding by procuring and
delivering services in more innovative ways.
Seventeen per cent of
purchasers said their local authority had been legally challenged by an
unsuccessful bidder in the 12 months prior to November 2010.
Buyers also felt they were
entering a legal minefield, with 65 per cent expressing uncertainty over
whether competition to tender is required when sharing services with other
Most buyers wanted
clearer, more easily accessible guidance and support from the EU.