Today in Strasbourg, the college of commissioners adopted a package on public procurement.

A substantial part of public investment in our economy is spent through public procurement: €2 trillion yearly, which represents 14% of Europe's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Ensuring that this taxpayer money is spent efficiently and effectively is of common European interest.

Having a more modern, digital and professional public procurement in the Member states can contribute enormously to that end. Furthermore, it can increase the impact of public investment for the benefit of both businesses and citizens. The package presented today by Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Bieńkowska is of crucial importance for this process and provides an excellent opportunity to think about public procurement more strategically.

I am particularly happy of this result not only because a good functioning public procurement is key to the sound investments through the European Structural and Investment Funds but also because it is a clear demonstration of the importance of the joint work. We have been working closely together since the very beginning. With my colleague, Commissioner Bieńkowska, we have regular meetings to discuss this important issue. Our services are also involved on a daily basis in delivering support and guidance to the Member States and their authorities in order to improve the performance of both administrations and beneficiaries in applying public procurement for EU investments during the 2014-2020 programming period.

Important results are already there and go beyond the management of the funding. We may say that the actions triggered structural changes in one of the key sectors of the economy.

For instance, a number of Member States have been preparing and implementing national action plans to address structural weaknesses. This was also a specific condition introduced by the legislation on Cohesion Policy to have an effective and sound public procurement framework.  Professional trainings are offered to public officials both on general and specific issues. Exchange of good practice and concrete solutions and methods are organised through the TAIEX-REGIO PEER 2 PEER platform. A study summarised valuable information regarding the administrative capacity in the field of public procurement with country-specific information and recommendations. An easy-to-use guide was prepared to support public officials across the EU to avoid the most frequent errors and is currently being updated.

In addition, in order to improve transparency in public procurement for EU-funded projects, the European Commission and the NGO Transparency International are currently promoting the use of Integrity Pacts. They are legally-binding agreements under which civil society organisations oversee the public procurement process to ensure that it is carried out in a fair and transparent manner.

The actions that are forthcoming include a wide e-library of good practice in public procurement in the context of ESI Funds, a competency framework for institutions managing and implementing the ERDF and Cohesion Fund and a self-assessment tool allowing to identify and address competency gaps at the level of  both individual staff members and the institution as a whole.

We are also currently working on a pilot project with OECD to encourage the uptake of strategic procurement in projects co-financed by the ESI Funds.

 Almost half of the European Structural and Investment Funds are channelled through public procurement. We need to make sure that every euro counts and is protected, and helping Member States improve their capacity and efficiency is the best way to do that.

 

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