By Martin Banks - 12th July 2011
The key word is simplification
A top commission official has admitted that current public procurement rules in Europe need simplifying.
Speaking on Tuesday, Erik Nooteboom, of the commission's internal market directorate, pledged that the executive would "come forward" with easier rules for the business community.
He said, "The key word is simplification. We need to render the whole process of public procurement simpler."
Nooteboom was a keynote speaker at an event organised to discuss the commission's green paper on "modernisation of the EU public procurement policy".
The event heard that, at present, public procurement - the purchase of goods and services by governments and public authorities - amounts to some 17 per cent of the EU's GDP.
The rules governing such purchases are, however, under review by the commission, which has launched a consultation process.
At the same time, parliament has been working on its own initiative report on the issue.
Greens MEP Heide Rühle, parliament's rapporteur on the commission's public procurement proposals, urged the executive to come forward with "more flexible" rules.
She told the meeting, "At present, the rules on procurement are too technical and detailed. It is a big problem because it creates a heavy burden for SMEs and that is why I am asking for more flexible, simpler rules."
Nooteboom, an acting director in his DG, said the commission was aware of such concerns and would produce "simpler and modern" rules.
He said, "I have to say that this issue has certainly risen up the ladder of priorities.
"Four years ago, public procurement was seen as very technical, but now it is seen as an important part of stimulating growth in Europe."
He added, "At the end of the day, we have to remember that this is taxpayer's money we are talking about. It is important that citizens know exactly where their money is being spent."
He said one of the key issues was in reducing the paper work involving in the procurement tendering process and also developing the use of eCommerce.
"There needs to be a change in mentality here. The commission is not looking for a revolution but, rather, better application of existing rules."
He added, "The current rules are too burdensome, detailed and complex and this has got to change."
Another speaker was Elisabetta Zannon, director of the European Office for the UK's national health service.
She too said she wants to see simpler rules, saying that existing rules represent a "burden" to innovation.
A position paper presented to the meeting from EuropaBio said that tendering was an "inappropriate" process for selecting biological medicines.
It would not be correct to take a "one size fits all" approach because while "biosimilars are similar, they are not identical", the paper states.