The European Commission’s public procurement strategy focuses on six strategic policy priorities. It aims to improve EU public procurement practices in a collaborative manner by working with public authorities and other stakeholders.
A substantial part of public investment is spent through public procurement (around €2 trillion per year, representing 14% of EU GDP), and high quality public services depend on modern, well-managed and efficient procurement. Improving public procurement can yield big savings: even a 1% efficiency gain could save €20 billion per year. The public sector can also use procurement to boost jobs, growth and investment, and to create an economy that is more innovative, resource and energy efficient, and socially-inclusive.
The Commission’s six policy priorities for public procurement are:
55% of procurement procedures use lowest price as the only award criterion for public contracts. This indicates that public buyers are probably not paying enough attention to quality, sustainability and innovation.
To support the further uptake of strategic procurement, the Commission will update and issue new guidance documents on the use of innovative, green and social criteria. .The Commission will also promote the exchange of good practice, including in strategic sectors, such as healthcare, IT and construction.
Public buyers often lack the neccesary business skills, technical knowledge or procedural understanding for effective public procurement. This can lead to a lack of compliance with public procurement rules and has negative consequences on businesses and taxpayers.
The Commission has issued a Recommendation encouraging EU countries to take steps to ensure buyers have the needed skills, knowledge and integrity. The Commission will also facilitate the exchange of good practice and innovative approaches.
Procurement should be made more accessible for companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Currently, SMEs win only 45% of the value of public contracts. EU companies wanting to bid on public tenders abroad also face many barriers in accessing non-EU markets.
The Commission will help SMEs by enhancing transparency, digitalising processes and improving strategic procurement. It also aims to improve EU businesses’ access to non-EU markets through trade agreements.
Reliable data is essential in the creation of better analytics for needs-driven policy-making.
Improved and more accessible data on public procurement will make it possible to better assess the performance of procurement policies, optimise the interaction between public procurement systems, and shape future strategic decisions. The Commission advocates for the set-up of publically accessible contract registers (publishing awarded contracts and their amendments). Enabling the reporting of corruption by setting up effective reporting mechanisms and protecting whistleblowers against retaliation can also contribute to improving transparency and saving public money.
The digitalisation of public procurement is slow. In 2016, only four EU countries relied on digital technologies for all the major steps of the procurement process.
The Commission aims to improve the use of e-procurement tools such as eCertis, the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD), and European standards for eInvoicing. This will help EU countries make use of new technologies to simplify and accelerate their procurement procedures.
Contracting authorities are rarely buying together – only 11% of procedures are carried out through cooperative procurement. This is a missed opportunity as buying in bulk can result in better prices and higher quality goods and services. It can also help contracting authorities exchange know-how.
The Commission aims to promote joint cross-border public procurement and support training on SME friendly policies. This will help buyers work together, learn from each other, and ensure better value for money.