Public procurement – a study on administrative capacity in the EU

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A study offers a unique and unprecedented overview of the current state of administrative capacity in the field of public procurement in the EU with a special focus on the implementation of the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds. It looks at the systems and structures in the individual Member States and provides valuable information as to how to improve the quality of public procurement and ensure more efficiency, transparency and regularity, in line with the Investment Plan for Europe and the EU budget focused on results initiative.

This study provides a systematic assessment of the public procurement systems of each of the Member States with a particular focus on the way how they are organised and function. Based on desk research for 28 Member States, field interviews in 15 Member States, case studies in the Czech Republic and Portugal and an online survey of practitioners in 28 Member States, the study assesses each system’s strengths and weaknesses and provides country specific recommendations in 28 country profiles. It also identifies a list of good practices and lessons learnt from the past that could be used by decision-makers to improve administrative capacity, especially in terms of human resources, systems and tools, and governance structures.

The study is one of the building blocks of the Action Plan on public procurement - part of the broader initiative launched by Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Creţu to help Member States and regions improve the way they invest and manage Cohesion Policy funds, alongside the development of Peer 2 Peer, a platform for public officials from Member States to exchange expertise and best practice in administrative capacity-building, the guide on the most common errors in public procurement, and Integrity Pacts, a tool to improve transparency and accountability in public procurement.

Country-specific information

The following section summarises the recommendations regarding  specific needs identified in the 28 Member States and the areas where they could improve performance and effectiveness of public procurement benefiting from the cases of good practice contained in the study.

Country
Bulgaria Bulgaria
  • Fight corruption: Corruption is among the most serious issues affecting the procurement system. Anti-corruption efforts should prioritise consolidation of effort in a limited number of independent and de-politicised institutions, strengthening ex-ante controls to allow for halting procedures with significant violations, and making it mandatory for oversight officials to refer serious violations for investigation.
  • Increase transparency: Develop a system for timely and comprehensive publication of procurement information including a public interface that is easily searchable and allows for the export of data in common, machine-readable formats.
  • Solid legal framework: Reduce the complexity, and frequent changes to the legislative framework, to facilitate consistent application by authorities, build confidence among economic operators, and reduce potential for abuse. Accompany legal reforms with awareness-raising efforts and timely, comprehensive and uniform guidance and support materials.
  • Strengthen administrative capacity: Accelerate hiring of additional staff and expand the training curriculum at procurement policy, executive and oversight agencies, including the PPA. Publish comprehensive, definitive, and easy to find guidance documents.
  • Improve the business environment: Overhaul the tendering process with the bidders’ perspective in mind to reduce the burden of participating in the procurement process. Publish a pipeline of upcoming tenders online, particularly for larger contracts. Set up and monitor key performance indicators on openness to competition of the Bulgarian public procurement market.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Belgien/Belgique/België Belgien/Belgique/België
  • Improve oversight: Public procurement oversight at the federal and regional levels is limited by human and financial resource constraints, and could be strengthened through implementation of more formalised processes, and via aggregation of oversight.
  • Promote e-procurement: Implementation of e-procurement is proceeding unevenly between regions and levels of government. Efforts should be made to promote use of e-procurement, and to integrate the various platforms.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Česká republika Česká republika
  • Stability of the legal framework: Consolidate reform efforts to fewer large-scale reforms, and accompany the reform process with adequate guidance. Contracting authorities need to be informed beforehand of the upcoming changes in order to implement these effectively.
  • Simplification of procurement rules: Publish clearer and more practical guidance materials for contracting authorities to allow them to more easily and confidently navigate the procurement process. Improve coordination between ESI Funds management and oversight bodies to reduce conflicting rulings and harmonise the legal interpretation of specific cases. Provide ad-hoc support to contracting authorities such as telephone hotline or an online helpdesk.
  • Clamp down on additional works: Define stricter rules for additional works and amendments to contracts, and set up channels for bidding companies to anonymously report suspicious practices.
  • Strengthen sanctions: Increase sanctions for violations of procurement rules to have a deterrent effect, and improve the enforcement capacity of the OPC.
  • Promote E-procurement:  Develop and test e-procurement infrastructure with users to make e-procurement use very easy and intuitive, improve system security, and incentivise greater use.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Danmark Danmark
  • Procure more: Increase the share of procured expenditure in order to provide greater possibilities and opportunities for private companies. Allow in-house public service contracts to take part in competition in the open market.
  • Let the pros handle it: Encourage contracting authorities to make greater use of the national framework contracts negotiated by SKI.
  • Simplify the legal framework: Reform the procurement legislative framework to streamline and simplify compliance. Increase guidance and support to contracting authorities through the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority.
  • Market knowledge: A significant number of contracts are withdrawn before they are awarded. This may be due to the lack of knowledge on the part of contracting authorities regarding what the market has to offer.
    Strengthen business skills through targeted trainings and on market research and dialogue with the private sector.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Bundesrepublik Deutschland Bundesrepublik Deutschland
  • Strengthen coordination: Incentivise greater coordination between the federal and federal state level governments to improve harmonisation of rules and systems. Develop interoperability among the various e-procurement platforms to facilitate searching for and bidding on tenders.
  • Improve data collection: Implement standardised data collection rules and a central collection point to produce accurate, timely and comparable procurement data nationwide.
  • Publish more tenders: Incentivise increased publication of tenders on EU-wide platforms to address Germany’s lowest in the EU relative value of contracts published under EU procurement Directives.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Eesti Eesti
  • Clean up corruption: Dedicate greater resources to the RRO so they can more effectively conduct oversight. Implement declarations of honour to deter conflicts of interest. Develop corruption risk assessment tools such as a centralised database of procurement-related corruption cases.
  • Get strategic: Set down precise long-term objectives to ensure that environmental, social and innovative criteria are included in tender procedures.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Ελλάς Ελλάς
  • Keep it simple: Enact the regulations and secondary legislation needed to fully implement the 2014 procurement reform law according to schedule in order to realise the expected benefits in streamlining and rationalisation. Improve harmonisation, or consolidate audit and control functions currently spread across the Court of Auditors, MAs, and the Inspector of Public Procurement Works to eliminate gaps, reduce redundancies, and lessen the burden of compliance for contracting authorities.
  • Increase independence: Reform the SPPA to ensure that the president and leadership are appointed by, and accountable to the Parliament and not the government. Require declarations of honour from evaluation committee members to discourage and facilitate prosecution of conflicts of interest.
  • Get tough: Increase sanctions for violations of procurement rules and invest resources into enforcement. Incorporate comprehensive and timely data collection and publication into the design of the e-procurement system.
  • Lack of training and support: Develop more specific and advanced training programs covering general procurement procedures, ESI funds specific topics, and anti-corruption policies.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

España España
  • Improve coordination: Increase coordination between specialised courts of contractual appeals to better harmonise the interpretation of procurement law among the regions. Increase coordination between, and consider mergers of consultative boards on public procurement. Increase coordination between public procurement oversight bodies at regional and national levels such as IGAE and regional comptrollers.
  • Control and oversight: Increase sanctions for violations of procurement. Enhance monitoring and control of the execution of contracts with on-site checks. MAs should issue clearer, more centralised instructions and guidance materials for Intermediate Bodies and regional comptrollers on interpretation of the rules.
  • E-procurement: Increase interoperability between local and regional e-procurement platforms and the central e-procurement platform PLACE. Enhance interoperability among the different registries of bidders at national and regional levels.
  • Local training and support: Make training organised for national and regional administrations accessible to local public procurement practitioners. Develop standardised tender forms and documents at national level. Create a one-stop shop portal for public procurement info.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

France France
  • Keep it simple: Streamline the Public Procurement Code to reduce complexity. Clarify the distribution of functions between the DGCP, the Minefi and the DAJ, and SAE and UGAP respectively, to reduce redundancies and to improve clarity for practitioners. Designate a one-stop shop for procurement information and promote its use to contracting authorities and economic operators. Develop a more extensive suite of comprehensive and practical guidance materials to help practitioners navigate the procurement system.
  • Promote e-procurement: Improve integration of municipal, provincial, and regional e-procurement platforms with the national e-procurement platform to reduce administrative burdens for bidders interested in public contracts. Promote the use of e-procurement among contracting authorities and economic operators.
  • Improve data collection and monitoring: Expand the mandate of the OEAP to collect data on tenders of all sizes, and to publish both raw data and regular analyses.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Croatia Hravtska
  • Strengthen anti-corruption efforts: Create proactive measures from Ministry of Economy such as increasing protections for whistle-blowers or including observers during procurement procedures. Expand the DKOM’s jurisdiction to allow it to initiate investigations ex officio. Adopt sanctions for infractions of procurement rules.
  • Improve support: Develop and implement a more robust training plan for procurement practitioners that focuses on key concepts such as market assessment, the use of MEAT criteria, and e-procurement tools. Make better use of online portals such as the EOJN to inform contracting authorities of their obligations through regular updates.
  • Hire more experts: Accelerate hiring of qualified experts at the DPPS, increase staffing levels at CPO and oversight bodies and develop retention policies.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Ireland Ireland
  • Increase administrative support: Allow public procurement practitioners at sub-national level access to vocational training courses organised at a State level. Expand the existing suite of standardised documents and guidance materials. Establish a telephone and e-mail helpdesk to provide ad hoc support.
  • Combat corruption: Delegate anti-corruption efforts to a politically independent organisation.
  • Lack of transparency: Improve public access to timely and comprehensive data on all stages of the procurement process. Increase collaboration with civil society groups to oversee procurement data.
  • Upgrade the e-procurement system: Update existing e-access and e-submission tools to reduce administrative burdens for contracting authorities and economic operators.
  • Increase SME involvement: Incentivise SMEs to form consortia to compete for larger contracts. Publish information on the pipeline of large projects so SMEs can better prepare.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Italia Italia
  • Less formalistic legal framework: Introduce outcome-based legislation that promotes economic efficiency leaving greater room for manoeuvre of contracting authorities to pursue “value for money”.
  • Close loopholes: Eliminate all possibilities of derogation from the Public Procurement Code except major disaster. Introduce strict ex post oversight of procedures carried out through an exemption of the Code.
  • Clear rules for in-house: Enhance transparency when public goods and services are acquired through in-house firms. Clarify the requirements and conditions for their use.
  • Crack down on abuse: Strengthen enforcement to reduce lag times between violations of procurement rules and convictions to reduce the perception of impunity. Improve risk management tools to better target high risk projects for increased oversight.
  • Improve contract execution: Introduce strict limitations on additional works, and limit economic operators’ ability to carry out both design and contract execution. Enhance legal liability for completion of projects.  
  • Simplify: Advance reform efforts intended to streamline the Public Procurement Code and review procedures. Introduce “winner-only habilitation”. Develop standardised tender documents and reduce the requests for additional documentation.
  • Specialise review: Establish a specialised court on public procurement to make review proceedings more efficient.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Κύπρος Κύπρος
  • Address administrative capacity: Promote the use of standardised tender documents for common goods and services, streamline procurement processes to reduce administrative delays, and reduce the number of contracting authorities through aggregation of purchase at the regional or central level.
  • Corruption: Develop and implement a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy and increase the pool of highly-skilled staff within the CBB to curb corruption in public procurement.
  • Improve access to information on training and support: Facilitate access to information about training opportunities and their links to the professions, and make training accessible to public procurement practitioners at municipal level.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Latvija Latvija
  • Get it right the first time: Dedicate increased resources to ex ante controls of tender documents. Develop comprehensive guidance materials.
  • Follow through: Extend the IUB’s authority to the full project lifecycle. Develop risk-management tools to systematically identify potential issues before they arise.
  • Increase transparency: Subject below EU threshold tenders to reporting and transparency requirements more in line with above EU threshold norms. Increase the transparency of in-house procurement done by municipalities. Bring the legal definition of fraud into line with the EU’s definition.
  • Better pay: Bring compensation for high skilled procurement staff into line with similarly qualified positions in other parts of the public administration.
  • Develop e-procurement: Create a comprehensive e-procurement platform and a policy plan with ambitious targets on e-procurement uptake and the necessary trainings and guidance materials to achieve them.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Lietuva Lietuva
  • More effective oversight: Exploit the existing data collection system to improve risk management systems to better target oversight efforts. Improve coordination with civil society groups to strengthen public oversight of procurement data. Strengthen the independence of anti-corruption bodies by depoliticising senior appointments in anti-corruption institutions. Enact stiffer sanctions for violations of procurement rules. Improve enforcement by increasing resources or better targeting the efforts of the PPO anti-corruption staff.
  • Get strategic: Conduct awareness-raising campaign accompanied by guidance materials on the values and use of strategic procurement, particularly for socially responsible procurement. Set up and maintain an inventory of ready-to-use environmental, social and innovative criteria for different product groups.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Luxembourg/Luxemburg Luxembourg/Luxemburg
  • Target supervision: Increase procurement oversight activities within the MDDI, including collection of comprehensive data and publication of annual reports.
  • Low uptake of e-procurement: Promote the use of the PMP e-procurement portal through awareness-raising activities and incentives. Develop authoritative and accessible guidance documents on the use of e-procurement tools.
  • Powerful purchasing: Establish objectives to ensure that environmental, social and innovation goals are included in tender procedures. Produce hands-on guidance for contracting authorities to implement these criteria. Set up and maintain an inventory of environmental, social, and innovative criteria for different product groups.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Magyarország Magyarország
  • Tackle corruption: Strengthen sanctions and step up prosecution of corruption in public procurement. Implement the Open Contracting initiative in a rigorous and comprehensive way. Reduce the cost of appealing procurement decisions by lowering filing and court fees for aggrieved parties seeking redress. Incorporate timely and comprehensive data collection and dissemination into the design of the ongoing e-procurement implementation process.
  • More competitive procedures: Reduce reliance on direct award and negotiated procedures in favour of more competitive alternatives, unless well-justified. Increase the uptake of e-procurement to increase transparency and competition.
  • Improve staff capacity: Institute mandatory, rigorous training regime for all new procurement practitioners to increase and maintain the skills of staff. Develop staff retention and motivation policy. Increase procurement staff at the PMO, which is in charge of the supervision of procurement for EU development funds.
  • Strategic use of public procurement: Develop training and guidance materials on the use of non-price criteria in tender selection. Conduct awareness-raising efforts to educate contracting authorities on the benefits of innovative, sustainable and inclusive procurement.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Malta Malta
  • Streamline and harmonise procedures: Standardise procurement procedures across levels of government. Review current procedures in line with LEAN principles to reduce unnecessary paperwork and delays.
  • Improve education and training: Enact extended training program of mentoring and coursework to increase the capacity of newly hired staff. Institute the long-term procurement diploma program for civil servants. Introduce targeted trainings on ESI funds management and control.
  • Get the word out: Improve communication between the DoC and other practitioners through more frequent updates and meetings.
  • Take procurement online: Accelerate the transition to e-procurement and organiser dedicated trainings and guidance documents to support uptake.
  • Bring innovation to the local level: Expand existing procurement of innovation, education, and training opportunities to local practitioners.
  • Improve oversight: Improve data collection and transparency on below thresholds contracts. Develop monitoring systems that can detect irregularities.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Nederland Nederland
  • Bigger data: Put in place a centralised data collection system or make the current systems interoperable in order to generate procurement statistics for analysis and publication.
  • Open it up: Promote the use of more openly competitive procedures where applicable.
  • Improve publication rate: Implement a tender publication system with easy-access for all contracting authorities. Increase transparency through publication of below-threshold contracts.
  • Accelerate digitisation. Conduct awareness-raising campaigns to inform contracting authorities about the benefits of e-procurement. Develop guidance materials to facilitate the use of e-procurement systems.
  • ‘Declaration of conduct’: Streamline the process for obtaining a “Declaration of conduct” or allow bidders to fulfil the requirement with a signed declaration of honour.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Österreich Österreich
  • Increase administrative capacity: Develop and implement targeted trainings, particularly covering the management of EU funds, at all levels of governance.
  • Integrate e-procurement: Consolidate, or improve interoperability between the different public and private e-procurement platforms at national and sub-national levels.
  • Strengthen anti-corruption efforts: Enact procurement specific anti-corruption measures, such as mandatory division of roles in the different phases of the procurement process, and regular staff rotation.
  • Increase EU-wide publication of contracts: Bring Austrian publication rates closer to EU averages by incentivising EU-wide publication of procurement contracts through mandates and awareness-raising efforts.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Polska Polska
  • A united front: Reform the PPL to reduce ambiguities in the definitions of legal terms and jurisdiction of institutions, particularly oversight bodies. Reduce the frequency of legal amendments and pair their enactment with information campaigns. Create an online one stop shop to host comprehensive and authoritative guidance materials on all aspects of procurement. Improve the PPO’s case law library to be more user friendly and intuitive. Develop more standardised tender documents.
  • Addressing corruption: Enhance ex ante and ex post checks of procurement procedures. Improve awareness raising activities and guidance documents on anti-corruption measures. Increase transparency by publishing more extensive tender and award data online for public oversight and increasing cooperation with civil society groups. Strengthen enforcement of existing procurement rules.
  • Increase independence: Separate the KIO from the PPO to allow it full independence in making decisions.
  • Move beyond price only: Provide additional guidance materials on the use of non-price criteria. Institute a two-step evaluation process to separate price and non-price elements. Develop training and guidance materials on the benefits of strategic procurement, including the use of life-cycle costing.
  • Accelerate e-procurement uptake: Develop a centralised e-procurement platform at the ePUAP portal. Conduct extensive awareness-raising and training campaign so that contracting authorities are engaged and prepared to use the new platform.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Portugal Portugal
  • Improve interoperability: Develop technical interoperability to allow oversight and policy bodies direct access to notices, contracts, bids, and performance data. Improve legal interoperability by working with the Commission on Access to Official Documents to facilitate authorization while respecting confidentiality.
  • Reform eSPap: Allow limited ability of central government contracting authorities to opt out of framework agreements with justification. Shorten the duration of framework agreement to reduce vendor lock.
  • Training: Develop targeted trainings on writing technical specifications.
  • Get tougher on corruption: Increase prosecutions of corruption-related offences linked with public procurement. Improve verification and enforcement of declarations of absence of conflict of interest.
  • Streamline the appeals process: Digitise the appeals filing process. Narrow conditions under which an appeal fully halts a procurement procedure. Create penalties for misuse of appeals.
  • Direct award: Reduce the thresholds and otherwise restrict Portugal’s uniquely high use of direct award.
  • One stop shop: Use BASE/eSPap as one-stop shop for procurement information.
  • MEAT: Increase use of MEAT criteria through improved guidance materials and awareness raising campaigns.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Portugal România
  • More coherent legal structure: Enact fundamental reform of the procurement legal structure and limit the frequency of future legal changes; changes should be preceded by stakeholder consultations and impact assessments and accompanied by the publication of comprehensive guidance materials.
  • Tackle corruption: Sharpen penalties and strengthen enforcement efforts to deter abuse of the procurement system. Develop a complaint resolution mechanism that can better address violations of procurement rules and standards, including the power to overturn improperly awarded contracts. Develop prevention and control mechanisms to prevent and detect high-level corruption such as setting up a code of conduct.
  • Improve administrative capacity: Offer training and ad-hoc support through a dedicated call centre. Produce clear and practical guideline materials. Encourage greater use of centralised purchasing services by local authorities.
  • ANAP > ANRMAP + UCVAP: Take advantage of the creation of a consolidated procurement agency ANAP to rationalise the responsibilities of its predecessor agencies, ANRMAP and UCVAP, strengthen its independence by creating a firewall between it and the MoF, replacing blanket ex ante controls with targeted reviews and giving it the power to procedures found to be in violation of procurement rules.
  • Reduce the cost of bidding: Reform the tendering process with the bidder’s perspective in mind to reduce the burden of participating in the procurement process. Introduce “winner-only habilitation.”
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Slovenija Slovenija
  • Fight corruption: Increase the use of targeted ex ante controls, particularly in the energy, construction, and healthcare sectors. Enhance internal control mechanisms and strengthen the role of the KPK. Facilitate oversight by civil society groups.
  • Reform the legal framework: Initiate a fundamental overhaul of the legal framework to simplify and clarify procedures; reform should include sustained involvement by a range of stakeholders, and be accompanied by a significant roll-out and training campaign.
  • The right tools for the job: Establish a live help desk to provide expert ad hoc support. Develop template tender documents for common products and services. Produce specific training and guidance materials on how to write tender specifications and technical requirements.
  • Promote digitisation: Accelerate the development of the planned e-procurement modules and functionalities and deploy an awareness-raising and training campaign.
  • Allow appeals of DKOM decisions: Introduce a swift and efficient system for filing appeals of DKOM decisions.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Slovenská republika Slovenská republika
  • Address corruption: Ramp up enforcement of procurement violations and suspected corruption to deter abuse in the system; consider moving investigation and/or prosecution responsibilities to an independent agency. Increase coordination among existing anti-corruption bodies to reduce redundancies and overlaps of responsibilities. Impose strict limitations on the cancellation of procedures pre-award. Expand the use of ex ante controls to catch irregularities and violations of the PPA prior to publication.
  • Strengthen administrative capacity: Reform the UVO’s human resources policy to make compensation and working conditions more competitive. Introduce more comprehensive training program and guidance materials for newer hires. Develop more standardised tender documents.
  • Clarify jurisdictions: Clarify competencies, or consider further consolidations, between procurement policy and administrative bodies to eliminate gaps and overlaps and reduce uncertainty. Enhance interoperability of the two e-procurement platforms.
  • E-procurement: Develop and implement a comprehensive transition strategy towards adoption of full end-to-end e-procurement.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Finland/Suomi Finland/Suomi
  • Support SMEs and innovation: Promote SME-friendly tender design, such as breaking large contracts into lots, making it easier to form consortia, and publishing info on the pipeline of upcoming major projects. Devote resources to market research to identify emerging technologies.
  • Implement e-procurement: Develop a comprehensive Action Plan to implement the e-submission functionality on the national e-procurement platform. Incorporate comprehensive and timely data collection and publication as an integral element of the e-procurement environment.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

Sverige Sverige
  • One stop shop: Focus centralised purchasing and support activated in a single entity, such as the newly-created National Agency for Public Procurement (UHM). Build a central search portal for all online notifications that links to the various platforms.
  • Simplify the rules: Conduct a review of procurement laws, regulations and procedures from the perspective of contracting authorities and economic operators to identify ways to streamline the procurement process.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf

United Kingdom United Kingdom
  • ESI funds management issues: EU standards and regulations must be incorporated into the UK system in a more systematic way. Transparency and recordkeeping in particular should be prioritised.
  • Integrate CCS: Enhance the harmonisation of systems between the CCS and other central government agencies.
  • Improve bidder experience: Continue efforts to streamline administrative burdens, including further reduce the length of PQQs. Develop market knowledge and business orientation through dedicated training and in taking these aspects into account when hiring procurement professionals.
  • Key facts and figures

Download the full country profile here: pdf