Public authorities choosing among bids to supply them with water, energy, postal or transport services must be free to take account of environmental or social needs, and not just the cost, said Internal Market MEPs voting on an update of EU public procurement rules on Thursday.
The proposed rules on "Utilities", updating a 2004 directive, should enable public authorities to procure services more flexibly and hence take better, more strategic decisions on how to spend public money.
MEPs voted to allow authorities to accept not just the lowest bid, but the "most economically advantageous tender" (the "MEAT" criteria) which could also include environmental or social aims. These criteria were also incorporated in the "Classic" public procurement by a committee vote on 18 December 2012.
"This is a step in the right direction, which reinforces the line taken in December's vote. It also reflects our determination to improve the quality and efficiency of public services, facilitate market access for SMEs, and ensure compliance with good working conditions and environmental criteria. Especially in this time of crisis, citizens expect every euro of public money to be spent effectively, efficiently and responsibly", said rapporteur Marc Tarabella (S&D, BE).
The new rules on utility service contracts also aim to make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to bid for them and to encourage innovation.
Like the "Classic" public procurement directive, the "Utilities" one enables EU member states to impose joint liability on contractors and subcontractors for services supplied, divide contracts into lots and in some cases open up the bidding to suppliers from third countries.
The new rules would also allow public authorities to cooperate on projects without issuing a call for tenders on certain conditions.
Mr Tarabella's report was adopted by 25 votes in favour, 5 against and 8 abstentions.
The "Utilities" directive is one of package of four directives on public procurement. The others are the "Classic", "Concessions" and "Third Market Access" (or "Reciprocity") directives. An update to the "Concessions" directive was also voted in the Internal Market Committee on Thursday. The "Third Market Access" directive is dealt with by the International Trade Committee.
The Committee will decide later whether or not to open negotiations with the Council with a view to reaching a first- reading agreement.
Read the press release on the "Classic" Public Procurement Directive (link to the right)
In the chair: Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK)