Coronavirus: EU issues guidance for public buyers

2 April 2020

The EU has issued guidance to public sector buyers on flexibilities in procurement rules to address the threat from the coronavirus outbreak. 

The guidance, issued by the European Commission (EC), is focused on procurements in “cases of extreme urgency” where public buyers may need to buy “within a matter of days, even hours, if necessary”.

“Covid-19 is a health crisis that requires swift and smart solutions and agility in dealing with an immense increase of demand for similar goods and services while certain supply chains are disrupted,” the guidance said. 

It acknowledged the pressure on public buyers to ensure the availability of “personal protective equipment such as face masks and protective gloves, medical devices, notably ventilators, other medical supplies, but also hospital and IT infrastructure”.

The guidance provides an overview of the choice of tendering procedures available to public buyers for the purchase of the supplies, services, and works needed to address the crisis.

Buyers have several options available to them in order to procure good and services quickly, including “substantially reducing” deadlines to accelerate open or restricted procedures or a negotiated procedure without publication.

“Eventually, even a direct award to a preselected economic operator could be allowed, provided the latter is the only one able to deliver the required supplies within the technical and time constraints imposed by the extreme urgency,” the EC explained. 

Buyers should also consider looking at alternative solutions and engaging with the market when confronted with situations of an exceptional increase in demand for similar goods, products and services, coupled with significant disruption of the supply chain.

Thierry Breton, EC commissioner in charge of the internal market, said: “Public buyers are under immense pressure in the current emergency situation to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment such as face masks and protective gloves, of lifesaving ventilators and other medical supplies for all of those working relentlessly in the face of this crisis. 

“I want to help them by fully explaining all the flexibilities and solutions provided by the EU public procurement framework to buy such material fast. The current coronavirus crisis presents an extreme and unforeseeable urgency – precisely for such a situation our European rules enable public buyers to buy within a matter of days, even hours, if necessary. 

“I urge all public buyers to fully exploit these flexibilities and to not hesitate and ask for further guidance from the commission if needed.” 

Last month, the EU launched a joint procurement scheme to purchase masks, gloves, overalls, goggles and face shields.

The EC announced producers of equipment had met and in some cases exceeded the amount requested by member states.

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