Following the latest amendment to the public procurement rules in 2014, all public authorities throughout Europe can use public procurement to pursue social objectives. In practice, however, many public buyers have concerns or do not know how to proceed. Thus, public procurement remains a largely untapped source of economic growth for social economy enterprises.
Therefore, the European Commission has launched a new project under the COSME programme for Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to inform public authorities and industry in 15 EU countries about social considerations as part of public procurement. During 2019, workshops will be organised in the following Member States: Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden.
An event organised by the Social Economy Intergroup on Responsible Public Procurement and the Social Economy on 5 September 2018 also highlighted the need to raise awareness of social issues in public procurement.
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, pointed out that public purchasing power accounts for 14% of GDP. In its new strategy from October 2017, the Commission highlighted the need for professional public procurement. Many public buyers have not dared to include social considerations in their procurement or lacked the know-how to do so. There is also a lack of appropriate training. One initiative to address this would be the events planned in the Member States as part of the COSME programme.
In February 2018, the Commission published a guide to tendering procedures for EU-funded projects in order to avoid the most common mistakes made in projects funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds. A specific guide for including social considerations in public procurement had already been published by the Commission in 2011. It announced in its Communication of October 2017 on making public procurement work in and for Europe that it would revise this guide (see also DSV article Feb-2018).
Also in October 2017, and in line with its Recommendation on the professionalisation of public procurement, the Commission published a ‘Library of good practices and tools’, which is divided into two categories: 1) good practices from Member States and 2) tools and support from the Commission or international organisations. The goal of the collection is to provide Member States, and in particular decision-makers and contracting authorities, with a set of good practices corresponding to each of the recommendations to promote professionalisation in public procurement. The collection will be updated regularly, with the participation of Member States and contracting authorities. To this end, the Commission intends to develop an online tool allowing dynamic management and updating.