EBC Annual Conference 2019 – Public Procurement: how to improve access for construction SMEs?

To highlight the importance that Public Procurement has for construction micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the European Union (EU) and to analyse how construction SMEs can play a more significant role in public contracts, EBC dedicated its Annual Congress on 21 May in Rome to the topic of how to remove barriers for SMEs’ access to Public Procurement.

Organised together with EBC Italian member CNA Costruzioni, the EBC Annual Congress brought together experts, policy-makers and construction entrepreneurs from several European countries. The European Commission initiated the exchanges by presenting an overview of the state of play on Public Procurement in the EU, followed by an economic perspective on SMEs’ access to public contracts by the Avignon University. Afterwards, EBC members showcased the situation in Belgium and in Italy to emphasise opportunities and challenges of the Directive in the different EU Member States.

A panel of national EBC experts then discussed the role of construction SMEs in public procurement, highlighting the importance to divide public tenders into lots in order to make them accessible to SMEs. Problems in regard to national implementation and interpretation as well as procurement award criteria including environmental and social benchmarking were also particularly underlined. In addition, panellists discussed about how to improve the monitoring of bad procurement practices, how to better train contracting authorities, and how new procurement practices – such as competitive dialogue and innovation partnerships – could favour SMEs’ access to public tenders.

Eugenio Quintieri, EBC Secretary General, stated: “The Public Procurement Directive has played a crucial role in boosting SMEs’ access to public tenders. However, we need to make sure that public administrations use all the possibilities and tools available to them to make public tenders as SME-friendly as possibleEBC is committed to work in close cooperation with the European Commission and Member States to make sure that the economic relevance of our construction SMEs is appropriately reflected in public tenders.”

EBC President Rinaldo Incerpi closed the conference by highlighting that: “Reduced access of construction SMEs to procurement is a missed opportunity for greater local employment and competition. By adapting public tenders to the realities of SMEs, we will boost the role of our micro, small and medium enterprises as economic players and agents of social cohesion and integration.