EU laws should be made SME-friendly

10 October 2011

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10 October 2011 | Angeline Albert

The EU should follow the US’ ‘SME-friendly’ public procurement laws and make governments combine their purchasing power, a law professor has said.

Christopher Bovis, professor of European Business Law at the University of Hull and academic advisor to the EU’s single market programme has described bidding as an SME for public sector contracts in Europe “extremely cumbersome”. 

The academic said the US public sector has a “clever” system of contract compliance. Bidding companies must meet diversity requirements, which means a certain percentage of businesses winning contracts must be minority-owned for example, women- or ethnic minority-owned.      

Bovis said: “It is not just the US system that the EU can learn from. The EU should encourage member state governments to collaborate on purchasing. They must harness their purchasing power to save money. This is something that currently they are reluctant to do.”     

So instead of, for example, local councils or government departments in one country teaming up to get a better deal, public sector organisations across the EU could work together to reduce costs.

Bovis will put forward his views at the Annual Conference on European Public Procurement Law 2011 in Trier, Germany, today and tomorrow.

In July, The Department for Transport decided to award a contract for new trains on the Thameslink project to German company Siemens over Bombardier, which owns the UK’s last train manufacturing plant in Derby. Transport secretary Philip Hammond said he was consulting on ways to increase support for UK train manufacturers when awarding rail and infrastructure contracts.

Referring to the Thameslink contract Bovis said: “There is an option to abort the deal. Legally, we are at the preferred bidder stage and the contract is not signed. Britain ‘gold plates’ EU procurement law, Germany and other countries look after their domestic businesses more.”   

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