Public procurement: EBC Vice-President appointed as member of Commission Stakeholder Expert Group

EBC Vice-President Philip van Nieuwenhuizen has been selected as one of the new members of the European Commission Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement. The appointment is effective immediately and will last for three years. Mr Van Nieuwenhuizen combines a degree in Public International Law with extensive knowledge on public procurement due to his current roles as Vice-President of the Dutch association of construction SMEs AFNL and as President of ACA GWG, a Dutch body monitoring the correct application of national and European legislation on public procurement. His main tasks in the Stakeholder Expert Group will be to ensure SMEs’ access to public tenders and equal participation conditions for SMEs.

Public procurement makes up about one third of government expenditures and thus represents an important direct source of income for companies, including SMEs. However, access to public procurement is generally more difficult for SMEs than for larger firms. Barriers include a lack of information on procurement opportunities, large volumes and broad capabilities requests, restricted access to certain contracts, disproportionately high technical and financial qualification levels, short tender deadlines, submission costs, high insurance and financial guarantee requirements, administrative burdens and difficulties to identify bidding partners.

In this context, EBC considers it essential to not only guarantee an equal, fair and direct access for all enterprises independent of their size, but also to avoid distortive criteria disadvantaging SMEs. The European institutions need to ensure the proper interpretation of Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement within the different European Member States. In that respect, the European institutions should closely monitor how successful public procurement law is applied at the national, regional and local level, and further guide implementation, if necessary. “We need to make sure that contracting authorities use the possibilities given to them. This includes issues such as innovation partnerships, dividing the tender into different lots, a preference for the economically most advantageous tender rather than the cheapest, and appropriate selection criteria in order to ensure a level playing field”, remarks van Nieuwenhuizen.