We are going into a holiday weekend in the UK, so we will be back on Tuesday, which amazingly and worryingly will be September! But if you want something to read over the weekend, or on Monday when we are away, why not take a copy of some of our research papers to the beach, the holiday cottage or your luxury yacht moored off Cannes? (Now what were we saying about corruption in public procurement?)
The first Public Spend Matters Europe research paper we published was titled Implementing the eProcurement Mandate – Technology Choices and Key Decision Factors” is available here to download, free on registration. It is sponsored by Vortal, the leading European public sector eProcurement software firm, but like everything we publish, it is written independently, based on our experience, views and knowledge of the procurement world.
In the paper, we look at the implications of the European Commission directives that will require all public bodies across the EU to use eProcurement for their contracting work. Many contracting authorities already have the capability to achieve this of course; but equally many do not. Those organisations face some challenging decisions. Here is an extract from the first section of our report.
“Two elements of the Directives are of particular interest in technology terms. Contracting authorities have been mandated to use “eProcurement” by 2016. Whilst there is still some lack of clarity (as we write this) around exactly what must be made available and when, the intent is that all communication of contract opportunities and document availability for potential bidders must be electronic, as will the e-submission of responses by those organisations tendering. Countries and contracting authorities are liable for penalties, such as fines, from the Commission if they do not achieve this in the agreed timeframe.
Note that this requirement does not really affect the purchase-to-pay (P2P) or transactional aspects of the procurement process – the process cycle that covers requisitioning and ordering, invoicing and payment.
The Directives have multiple aims. They seek to improve the efficiency of the whole procurement process, through changes such as the eProcurement mandate and reduced burdens on bidders, whilst preserving the open aspects of EU procurement and still protecting against fraud. The ultimate aim is improved value for money for citizens and taxpayers and stimulation for European economies.”
We then move onto the issues and challenges facing public bodies, and most importantly, what they need to consider when making their eProcurement decisions. We then pose three key questions that we look to answer – as far as possible – in the report.
- Should governments look to impose solutions centrally or let the market determine the various solutions that will be chosen by contracting authorities?
- Are SaaS (software as a service) or on-premise solutions generally preferable?
- Are off-the-shelf SaaS solutions preferable to bespoke software development?
Some governments will have to decide whether they wish to take a more centralist approach to implementing the Directives. So for example, if eProcurement is not well developed, should there be a central national approach, or just support offered at local level to contracting authorities that need to modernise their systems? These are major decisions, and in many countries and individual organisations, there is a lot to do.
In the paper, we come to a number of conclusions – without giving too much away, one is that we strongly advise organizations to select an existing solution and solution provider rather than developing a bespoke solution, whether the bespoke system is to be built by internal resources (e.g. the in-house IT team) or by an external IT provider or consulting firm.