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8 July 2014 | Gurjit Degun
The European Commission is calling on member states to design comprehensive medium-term strategies to reform their public procurement systems.
Joaquim Nunes de Almeida, director of public procurement, DG internal market and services at the European Commission, explained governments are currently working to transpose the new EU directives, which were agreeed in January, into national legislation.
Speaking at the Commission’s third annual conference on public procurement in Athens, Greece, last month he said: “We are assisting member states for a common interpretation of the directives. We need to ensure that this is well done. But we think that we need to go a step further and seize this opportunity to ask member states to design comprehensive medium-term strategies for smart procurement to reform, where necessary, their public procurement systems.”
Nunes de Almeida explained this would be a “valuable and indispensible addition to transposition of the new EU directives”.
He added: “In the European Commission we are mature enough to have understood that having transposed correctly a legal framework is certainly a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient, step to achieve a correct desirable functioning of a public procurement system. The work is unfortunately much more complicated than simply to transpose European legislation in a formally correct way.”
There are also plans to develop a policy to promote the “professionalisation of buyers,” Nunes de Almeida announced. “Public procurement is not perceived as a strategic function but as an administrative clerical exercise focused on legal compliance,” he said. “We need market intelligence, business skills and a focus on skills to become the heart of public purchasing.”
The conference heard the Commission is looking into introducing policy to tackle corruption in purchasing too. “Fraud and malpractice is an ongoing threat for governments as they undermine cities and companies trust in public authorities,” said Nunes de Almeida. “We are considering the possibility of developing a more effective and proactive policy on public procurement. Initiatives that may be considered include setting clear rules for the protection of whistleblowers, [and making use of] IT tools and indicators for better monitoring the procurement process.”
He added there is “still a lot to be done to build efficient and pragmatic solutions” for everyone involved in public procurement. Therefore the Commission will launch a new self-certification document – the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) to simplify the bidding process; and revised standard forms “which will simplify procedural issues for contracting authorities and improve the level of public procurement at EU level”.
Nunes de Almeida said: “In particular, the European Single Procurement Document will provide the preliminary evidence in replacement of the old certificates issued by public authorities. It should significantly reduce the administrative burden, which derives from the need to produce a certain number of certificates related to exclusion and selection criteria. That is a significant achievement and fully aligns with our achievements to make public procurement smarter and we expect that the ESPD will be ready soon.”