New European rules to simplify ICT procurement

The European Parliament has voted to introduce new directives which will help simplify the tendering process for councils tendering for ICT services.

According to the parliament, local authorities will be among the first to benefit from the new procedures, which will apply to all areas of procurement in all public bodies.

The reforms will mean councils will be able to advertise their contracts via less burdensome prior-information notices (instead of contract notices). In addition, they will be able to agree with the pre-selected bidders on the deadlines in their procurement procedures.

European commissioner Michel Barnier said: “The simplification of procedures, greater flexibility and their adaptation to better serve other public sector policies or the possibility of the best quality-price ratio (‘value for money’) will make public procurement more efficient and more strategic, respecting the principles of transparency and competition to the benefit of both public purchasers and economic operators.

“The rules on concessions will create a common framework for a major tool of public management in Europe, thus contributing to the conditions set for stimulating investment in major public services of the future.”

The reforms also broaden the possibilities for negotiating changes to procedures when justified by the specific circumstances of the project.

In addition, the documentation required from bidders will be reduced, by the introduction of self-declarations through a standardised document. Only the winning bidder will now have to submit formal evidence. The minimum deadlines to submit tenders will also be shortened.

A statement from the parliament also said that the introduction of a mandatory requirement for electronic communication in public procurement could increase accessibility to SMEs.

In addition, the division of contracts into lots is being encouraged through a new “apply or explain” principle.

Turnover requirements will be limited to a maximum of twice the estimated value of the contract, except in justified cases.

Once the Council has formally adopted the new legislation, countries will have two years to implement the new rules, with an extra six months for the implementation of the electronic communication requirements.

However, the Cabinet Office said in a statement that it is preparing plans for early implementation.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “We will seek to transpose these rules into UK law quickly as the regulations will help British companies win business in other European countries.”

Colin Marrs

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