EU rules on public procurement contracts should be reformed to make it easier for small firms to bid for them, said Parliament in a vote on Tuesday. This includes enabling authorities to award contracts not just to the lowest bidder, but to the most innovative, or to those offering the greatest environmental or social benefits. The Commission is to table reform proposals in December.
Public procurement accounts for roughly 17% of EU GDP. Putting taxpayers' money to the best possible use is vital to relaunch our economy and create jobs, especially in time a crisis, says the non-legislative resolution drafted by Heide Rühle (Greens, DE). This resolution outlines Parliament's position ahead of the major legislative proposal for a revision of EU public procurement rules, to be presented by the Commission in December.
"In this deep crisis we need clear, simple rules. Only in this way can public authorities give a fillip to innovation and growth", said the rapporteur ahead of the vote.
Procurement passport to simplify bidding
Today's public procurement rules make tendering for contracts cumbersome and costly. To reduce the administrative burden that compliance places on firms, MEPs propose setting up an EU-wide "electronic procurement passport" proving that the holder complies with EU rules on public procurement.
Other measures to remove administrative barriers could include use of self-declarations of compliance and requesting original documents only from the shortlisted candidates or the successful tenderer.
Easier access for small and medium-sized enterprises
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) win only 31% - 38% of public procurement contracts by value - much less than their overall share in the economy (52% of combined turnover) suggests they should.
Dividing public contracts into lots would give SMEs a better chance of bidding, MEPs say. They also ask the Commission to assess "whether further rules on the award of subcontracts are needed, for example on the establishment of a chain of responsability, specifically to avoid SME subcontractors being subject to conditions worse than those applicable to the main contractor".
Not the cheapest, but the most advantageous
The "lowest price" criterion should no longer be the determining factor in awarding contracts. It should be replaced by that of the "most advantageous tender in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits, taking into account the entire life-cycle costs of the good, service or work", the resolution says. MEPs underline that this goes in particular for food to hospitals, care facilities for the elderly, schools and kindergardens where quality and production methods play an important role.
Broadening the criteria, and systematically admitting alternative bids (or variants) would also enable bidders to propose new solutions and thus make public procurement into a real driver for innovation and help obtain the goals outlined in the EU 2020 strategy, adds the text.
Finally, MEPs call on the Commission to reassess "the appropriate level of thresholds for supply and services contracts, and if necessary raise them".
The resolution was adopted by a show of hands.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution