A European project is proving the benefits of e-procurement to public administrations and SMEs in five European regions. And by linking the different platforms, Europe is set to get its first cross-border e-tendering technology.
“For far too long, I think, public authorities have been bad purchasers. All too often their contractors deliver poor services at too high a price,” says Louis-François Fléri. “But there is technology now that enables public organisations to procure top-quality, efficient services, yet save tax payers thousands of euros at the same time.”
Fléri is talking about the “e-bourgogne tendering system”. Launched in 2005, this online procurement platform serves over 900 public bodies – from local councils to utility companies – from the Burgundy region of France.
So far, more than 12,000 businesses (mostly local small and middle-sized enterprises, but also many companies from across Europe) have used e-bourgogne, generating a total of nearly 240,000 downloads and more than 8000 electronic tenders, two-thirds of which are below the threshold for publication in the European Journal.
“We have seen a 15-20% reduction in the value of regular small tenders which represents a substantial saving of tax payers’ money,” remarks Fléri. “Public organisations now receive 10 to 20 answers to a tender instead of the one or two they used to get.”
Tried, tested and proved, the technology is now being made available to other regions of the EU thanks to the EU-funded PROCURE project.
The platform was built with an open-source licence, making it straightforward for any other organisation to take it, adapt it and deploy it for their own e-tendering protocols. PROCURE has benefited from the expertise of the e-bourgogne team to roll out an e-tendering platform in several other EU regions. The project partners also plan to share their expertise and experience to improve existing e-procurement platforms and protocols.
The project is working to get the platform to market, prove its value, and to encourage other public administrations to adopt e-procurement at a regional scale.
But PROCURE goes a step further than simply deploying isolated systems. The project is linking them together and creating the first interregional network of shared e-procurement platforms. In the future, it could also provide access to the central European tenders database, Tenders Electronic Daily (TED).
“This network of regional e-procurement platforms is a major boost for greater competitiveness and innovation in the delivery of public services. But it is also great news for SMEs who should benefit from a one-stop shop,” says Fléri.
“They will be able to find and bid for public contracts from across Europe – especially low value ones which do not get published through TED. It is a great step towards a single market and will drive the growth of Europe’s most efficient, innovative SMEs.”
PROCURE is a first tentative step in overcoming the legal complexities of cross-border e-tendering.
The PROCURE partners have conducted a careful review of the laws governing e-tendering within different EU Member States. “Interoperable regional systems must conform to local as well as European law,” notes Fléri.
“There are EU directives about e-procurement and public contracts, but how these are applied at the local level is very different between Member States. When we link regional platforms together, we must ensure than a company in Spain, for example, will be able to meet the legal e-tendering requirements for, say, a Swedish tender,” he explains.
Most (but not all) Member States, for instance, require bidders to validate high-value electronic tenders with a special identity certificate – the digital equivalent of a signature on paper. But e-signatures have a varying legal status in different Member States.
Such cross-border issues could prove a major stumbling block in PROCURE’s vision of integrated, Europe-wide e-bidding, but the project is reporting to the European Commission with recommendations on the harmonisation of e-signatures to overcome these problems and make it easier for transnational e-procurement. Many of the solutions to these issues are currently being trialled in another project called PEPPOL (funded through the ICT PSP arm of the Competitiveness & Innovation Framework Programme).
Calling all SMEs
Along with the technical deployment work and legal studies, the PROCURE project is also looking at the best ways to promote e-tendering platforms to SMEs. Through seminars, workshops and other events the PROCURE partners have witnessed a five- or six-fold increase in the number of SMEs registered with Brittany's e-tendering platform and significant growth in tender submissions from SMEs via the e-ordering system in Uddevalla, Sweden.
PROCURE has also launched e-tendering platforms in Central Bohemia (Czech Republic) and the French island of Guadeloupe.
“We have had tremendous success with the Burgundy e-tendering system and we are now seeing these benefits being realised in other regions of Europe. By sharing our experiences with others and learning from other regions with well-established e-tendering platforms, PROCURE will help to demonstrate how e-tendering can become the norm and make electronic bidding for public contracts accessible to companies of every size, no matter where they are located in Europe.”
Cite This Page: