Public procurement contracts should go to the most "advantageous" bidder, assessed on environmental or social criteria, not just the lowest one, said Internal Market MEPs voting on new EU rules on Tuesday. MEPs also improved an optional "innovation" provision, to enable bidders to suggest how best to meet specifications set out in the contract.
Public procurement contracts account for a significant share of the economy (around 19% of EU GDP) making public procurement rules a powerful tool for achieving specific societal goals, whether environmental, social or innovative.
"We want a public procurement market in Europe that serves European citizens. We also want to make sure that public money is spent in a more socially responsible way", said Parliament's rapporteur Marc Tarabella (S&D, BE). His draft report on Public Procurement was approved by 23 votes in favour, 8 against and 7 abstentions.
Not the cheapest, but the best
Public procurement should be greener and more socially responsible, MEPs say. Instead of simply accepting the lowest bid, public authorities should go for the "most economically advantageous tender" (MEAT) which could also include environmental considerations such as sustainability and life cycle costs or social objectives such as buying from firms with a particular social profile. It should also be ensured that tenders live up to environmental and labour laws, they add.
To encourage innovative suggestions, MEPs expanded upon the concept of "innovation partnerships" in which the authority states the minimum requirements that a good or service must fulfil, but leaves it up to the tenderer how best to achieve these goals.
Making it easier for smaller firms to bid
To cut red tape, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, MEPs propose to establish a "procurement passport" to show that a firm fulfils the criteria without having to send in documentation every time they make a bid.
They also simplified the proposed rules enabling public authorities to subdivide contracts into lots, so as to enable small firms to bid for them.
To clarify the subcontracting chain, MEPs ensured that member states may make each subcontractor responsible for the next link and ensure that any subcontractor taken on lives up to the provisions of the directive.
The Public Procurement Directive is the key directive in the Public Procurement Package. The directives on "Utilities" (procurement in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors) and "Concessions" will be put to a vote in the Internal Market Committee in January. A fourth directive, on third country access to public procurement, is being dealt with by Parliament's International Trade Committee.
Internal Market Committee coordinators will decide later stage whether to open negotiations with the Council for a first-reading agreement on the Public Procurement Directive.
In the Chair: Malcolm Harbour (ECR, UK)