EU to simplify cross-border e-procurement

26 May 2008

The European Commission is to fund a pilot project to integrate e-procurement systems across Europe.

The Commission will co-finance the project, which is driven by eight European countries, that will create the conditions to link existing national electronic public procurement (e-procurement) systems. Simplifying cross-border procurement will generate savings on administrative and transaction costs, said the Commission, which will ultimately benefit taxpayers.
The project will involve more than €19m being invested over three years, €9.8m of which will come from the European Commission’s Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.

Government contracts amount to more than 16pc of the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) but many European companies, especially SMEs, miss out on this substantial business because of the extensive paperwork required for bidding for government contracts. The difficulties are exacerbated when bidding for contracts across borders.

E-procurement levels the playing field for smaller firms when it comes to competing for public tenders but it is more difficult to do it across borders.

“E-procurement already allows businesses to bid for the largest buyers in the EU: governments,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “By making sure their systems work together, member states are helping European businesses to win public sector contracts anywhere in the EU. This is a crucial step towards completion of the Single European Market.”

The pilot project is being driven by Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Norway (the latter being a member of the European Economic Area). The new cross-border system envisaged will not replace current national e-procurement systems but will complement them.

The results go beyond saving taxpayers’ money and having leaner procedures, according to the Commission. It stated that by levelling the playing field for SMEs, cross-border e-procurement can boost competitiveness by providing tools for businesses to access the entire European market for public services.

At present, SMEs account for 67pc of employees in the business sector and 58pc of turnover in the EU but only win 42pc of government contracts.

By Niall Byrne