The EU has recently been considering the problems faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in competing for public contracts under the current EU procurement regime. SMEs win only 31-38% of public procurement contracts by value which is substantially less than their overall share in the economy (52% of combined turnover) suggests they should. Ironically therefore measures designed to increase competition and to free the market for all potential bidders is actually having the opposite effect by making it too costly for most SMEs to participate in tenders for public contracts.
The Committee for the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has recently considered this point and unanimously approved measures to remove the administrative barriers for SMEs to allow them to participate more effectively in competitive tenders. Those measures include a proposal for an EU-wide electronic procurement passport which would prove that the holder complies with EU rules on public procurement without the need to go through a substantial paper exercise for each new bid. MEPs also backed a proposal to divide public contracts into lots to give SMEs a better chance of bidding.
Although we are still a long way from any firm proposals let alone the introduction of further legislation the mood in Europe is clearly to lighten the load for SMEs not-for-profit and social economy operators when it comes to the current requirements for bidding for public contracts. The Commission has been seeking views since January 2011 on this and is currently preparing a series of legislative proposals which will be tabled later this autumn.
Further up-dates on this will be available via our blog in due course.