EU plan to improve public procurement

4 October 2017

Public procurement must be "professionalised" to increase the impact of spending, the European Commission (EC) has said.

The commission has published recommendations for professionalising procurement as part of an initiative to help countries make the most of their public spend. The commission said member states need to make sure their buyers have the right skills, technical knowledge and procedural understanding to comply with EU procurement rules and get the best value for money.

Jyrki Katainen, vice president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness at the EC, said: “We want to unlock the full potential of public procurement in ensuring that the €2tn spent yearly in public services and products boost our economy, spurs innovation and helps meet sustainability goals.”

The recommendations say member states should define a long-term policy for professionalising public procurement.

States should identify the baseline level of skills and competences a public buyer needs to have and create a framework around this to support recruitment, career management and training programmes.

Member states should encourage and support the development and uptake of IT tools that can simplify and improve the procurement function, as well as train staff to use these tools.

Integrity at both individual and institutional level needs to be made an intrinsic part of professional conduct, the document said. This can be done by ensuring compliance and transparency guidance, including codes of ethics, are established. 

The initiative is intended to help countries fully utilise the 2014 public procurement changes to meet environmental, social or innovation objectives through their purchasing.

As well as trying to professionalise procurement, the commission’s initiative outlines other areas of improvement, including increasing SMEs’ access to EU markets outside their own country, increasing data integrity and transparency, digitalising the procurement process and increasing cooperation between buyers across Europe.

The commission is also encouraging member states to voluntarily pre-submit large tenders, for example for big infrastructure projects, for review by the EC to ensure it is in line with EU procurement legislation.

Finally the EC has launched a consultation on how best to stimulate innovation through public procurement, which will remain open for submissions until the end of the year and will feed into any future guidance.

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