EU rule changes: positive, but far from simple

27 October 2011
With all eyes on Brussels this week with regards to the eurozone debt summit, it was action at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that should have caught the attention of public purchasers. MEPs approval of amendments to procurement rules should be given a cautious welcome, but it remains to be seen whether the suggested changes will really result in “simpler” regulations. Perhaps the biggest shake-up (if the European Commission does take account of the recommendations when it publishes legislative proposals in December) will be that buyers will no longer be allowed to use “lowest price” as the determining criterion when evaluating a tender. Instead, MEPs say it should be replaced by a judgment of the “most advantageous tender in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits”. Most contracting authorities - in the UK at least - already look for the “most economically advantageous tender”, but eliminating price as the largest factor and ensuring sustainability is considered will force a change in behaviour for some public buyers. This will make tender evaluation more, rather than less, complicated. Providing more contract opportunities for SMEs has been one of the primary motivations for changing the regulations. The adoption of the “procurement passport” should cut down paperwork on both sides. But a fly in the ointment could be the suggestion that extra rules be drawn up to ensure standards are upheld with subcontractors. So while the proposals could (and there remain many unanswered questions here) be positive for buyers, I doubt “simpler” rules will be the final outcome.
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