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Making Public Money Work for Us - February 2013

Catherine Stihler MEP

As we continue to struggle with the ongoing economic crisis, the importance of public contracting as a tool to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs has come in to sharp focus.

A stated aim of the revision of the public procurement directive is to ensure better use of public procurement in support of common societal goals such as energy efficiency, combating climate change and protection of the environment. This is combined with the intention to create a simplification of the rules to remove barriers for a greater take-up of sustainable procurement.

The two overall aims are not in contention but success is not so straightforward. Back in December 2012, the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament, of which I am a member, voted on the important proposals for the revision of the EU Public Procurement Directives, which influence public contracting in public authorities at all levels across Europe. Many of us in the Committee were determined to make real progress on strengthening sustainability considerations within public procurement across all its dimensions - social, environmental and economic. As you can imagine, with thousands of amendments being tabled from all political groups it has been a challenge to find good compromise positions on sensitive issue areas.

I believe we have made solid positive progress.  Importantly, our committee voted to remove the scope to award contracts on lowest price only, agreeing that this should be to the most economically advantage tender taking in to account a number of considerations. Life-cycle considerations have now also been accepted as an objective of the proposals. Social and environmental aspects of the production process and contract performance have also been given greater consideration. We have also agreed wording on mandatory compliance with social and environmental criteria which includes collective agreements.

I welcome the fact that the article ensuring the scope to reserve contracts for supported employment factories and businesses for people with disabilities has been preserved, and extended to other disadvantaged people. There are concerns about how new wording is being introduced in the European Council by Governments who are attempting to push its agenda of privatisation of public services.

Our report will now pass to a vote of the full European Parliament. I will continue to ensure that the progress we have made is maintained and developed.

As with all laws and policies, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It is important to guarantee that public money works to the benefit of ordinary tax payers who pay in to the pot. Tax payer's money should also reflect the values that as a society we strive for. Therefore we should ensure that public money is used wisely to guarantee good quality services, goods, and works, to ensure good working conditions, adherence to collective agreements, and to promote wider social, employment and environmental objectives. I will continue to ensure that any progress we have made in the European Parliament to make sure procurement works for the benefit of us all is taken up and used by public authorities whenever they contract.

Article published in Scotland Europa