The European Commission has recently launched a Green Paper aimed at modernising the rules, tools and methods for public procurement in the EU. Social and environmental concerns as well as the need for a more efficient use of public funds are driving factors behind this ambitious programme.
The EU public procurement rules provide for contract award procedures ensuring transparency, equal access and fair competition within the EU for public contracts above a certain value. The Green Paper envisages a substantial overhaul of the rules and asks stakeholders for input by way of a total of 114 separate questions. The Green Paper is split into 5 sections as follows:
- What are public procurement rules about? This section seeks to revise certain basic notions and concepts in order to ensure better legal certainty for contracting authorities and undertakings. This section examines issues such as the scope of the Public Procurement Directives, the distinction between priority and non-priority services and the threshold levels.
- Improve the toolbox for contracting authorities. This section examines issues such as whether or not the level of detail in EU public procurement rules is sufficient, whether the procedures in place to facilitate public-private partnerships are sufficient, whether simplified procedures for the purchase of commercial goods and services would be of benefit and the form such simplification would take.
- A more accessible European Procurement Market. This section focuses on issues surrounding the accessibility of SMEs to the European procurement market. It also examines possible methods of preventing anti-competitive behaviour.
- Strategic use of public procurement in response to new challenges. This section focuses on the interplay between public procurement rules and the achievement of other EU policy goals, notably environmental protection, social inclusion and promotion of innovation. It seeks to integrate these policy considerations into successive stages of the procurement procedure and balance competing policy objectives where conflicts arise.
- Ensuring sound procedures. This section focuses on methods for tackling conflicts of interest, favouritism and corruption in the interaction between the public and private sectors inherent in public procurement.
This exercise seeks to change substantially the way public procurement is conducted in the Internal Market. The many open-ended questions provide an invaluable opportunity for contracting authorities, business associations, national governments and NGOs to have their say in the way this sector is governed. The deadline for responses to the Green Paper is 18 April 2011.
Contributed by Claire Waterson.